Continental trade deal presented to Canada parliament

Ottawa (AFP) –


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau presented a continental trade deal to Canada's parliament Wednesday for approval, on the eve of a visit by US Vice President Mike Pence to discuss the treaty's implementation.

In the House of Commons Trudeau described last year's negotiations to replace the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as "a long and difficult process."

In the end, he said, "we got to a great deal."

After a year of tough negotiation following US President Donald Trump's criticism of NAFTA, Washington, Ottawa and Mexico City in November signed the new pact to revamp rules on manufacturing, digital commerce and labor rights, among other sectors.

"Canada, the US and Mexico are at our most efficient, most secure and most profitable when we work together. And it's about time we got back to that way of thinking," Trudeau said.

"The new NAFTA will secure access to a trading zone that accounts for more than a quarter of the global economy, and it's now time for the members of this House to ratify it."

On Tuesday Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, who led the negotiations, said Ottawa intends to move in lockstep with the United States and Mexico on ratification of the renamed USMCA trade pact.

It must be ratified by all three countries in order to come into force.

US President Donald Trump this month cleared a stumbling block by removing contentious US tariffs on imports of Canadian and Mexican steel and aluminum, which both countries demanded as a pre-condition of moving forward on the trade pact.

Democrats in Congress continue to have concerns about workers' rights, dispute resolution and other issues.

But Canada's ambassador to Washington, David MacNaughton, who was in Ottawa to brief officials this week, said he believes there is "a reasonable chance that the US Congress will pass this deal before the summer recess at the end of July."

In Canada the bill should be assured approval as Trudeau's Liberal Party hold the majority.

Current trilateral trade between Canada, the US and Mexico has reached nearly $1.1 trillion, according to government data.