Canada, U.S. and Mexico signed an amended version of the so-called new NAFTA deal Tuesday, known as CUSMA in Canada, with officials boasting it as a “win-win-win” for all three countries.
But the lengthy process of implementing the deal isn’t over yet. Here’s a look at what happened this week, and what’s likely to come.
U.S. Democrats approve — with some changes
CUSMA was signed more than a year ago to replace NAFTA, but Democrats controlling the U.S. House of Representatives insisted on major changes to labour and environmental enforcement before bringing it to a vote.
On Tuesday, U.S. Democrats put their stamp of approval on the deal, following lengthy negotiations with the Trump administration and resulting amendments.
Hours after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would now back the agreement, top officials from all three countries signed the amended document in Mexico City.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who oversaw negotiations for several years, signed on behalf of Canada.
“This has been a long, arduous and at times fraught negotiation,” said Freeland at the signing ceremony.
Countries need to ratify deal
While the deal has been signed by the countries, which was a major hurdle, a few steps are left. The deal now needs to be ratified by each member.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday that his government is currently weighing whether to reintroduce the bill to ratify the CUSMA before the holidays. But no decision has been reached, even as MPs depart for their winter break at the end of this week.
“That’s a decision for the House leader to take,” said Trudeau in a scrum with reporters on Wednesday.
“We’re looking at that right now. We’re looking at the remaining days in the calendar, but I have assured both the president of the United States and the president of Mexico personally that we will proceed with ratification as quickly as we can,” he added.
Stephanie Plante, the executive director of the International Commission of Jurists, Canada, told Global News that the process likely won’t be too challenging for Trudeau’s minority government.
“I don’t think there will be much pushback from the Tories on this, and he pretty much just needs their support to do this,” Plante explained.
“The Tories are the original architects of NAFTA. It’s their baby.”
Lydia Miljan, an associate professor of political science at the University of Windsor, agreed, adding that not supporting the trade deal would reflect badly on the Conservative party.
“The Liberals were savvy in how they did the negotiations; they really used a ‘team Canada’ approach. They used a lot of high-profile former Conservative MPs and prime ministers, like Brian Mulroney and Rona Ambrose,” Miljan explained.
“It’s going to be really difficult for Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives to reject that process.”
In the off chance that does happen, Miljan added the Liberals only need the support of one other party to pass legislation.
A U.S. House vote is likely before Congress adjourns for the year, and the Senate is likely to vote in January or February. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the vote on the trade deal will likely occur after an expected impeachment trial in the Senate.
Delays not likely
While impeachment in the U.S. could cause some delays, Plante said she doesn’t anticipate any major hurdles going forward.
“Everybody just pretty much wants this to get signed and move along,” she said, likening the lengthy talks to the situation in Europe with Brexit.
She added that when the original NAFTA was signed, there were major upsets and protests, but nothing like that has occurred this time.
“We haven’t really seen any big protest; there hasn’t been any big backlash against it.”
— With files from Reuters, The Canadian Press, The Associated Press