Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland speaks to media following a cabinet meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Canada still enjoying old NAFTA benefits: Freeland

Canadian ratification deadline in June is looming because Parliament will break then

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canada has kept its privileged access to the U.S. market even as the new North American trade deal hangs in the balance.

That was Canada’s core goal all along as it sat down with the United States and Mexico to renegotiate NAFTA in August 2017, she said Tuesday.

The leaders of all three countries signed the deal last fall but its formal ratification remains uncertain amid political jockeying in and between the U.S. and Mexico. Freeland is hinting the government isn’t worried about the way forward, saying Canadians can continue to enjoy the benefits of the existing 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, which remains in place.

That wasn’t the case with recently completed free-trade deals with the European Union and 10 Pacific Rim countries because they had to be ratified before Canadians could enjoy access, she said.

“NAFTA is an entirely different situation,” she said after a Tuesday cabinet meeting on Parliament Hill. “The Canadian objective from the outset has been to maintain Canada’s privileged access to the U.S. market, which is so valuable to all Canadians. We have been quite willing to consider modernizations, improvements, but our core objective has always been to keep that access in place.”

READ MORE: New UMSCA trade deal getting a boost from Trump, business groups

Mexican lawmakers recently told The Canadian Press they’re OK with the status quo if the new trade pact can’t be ratified.

The apparent laissez-faire positions of Canada and Mexico ignore one other fact: that President Donald Trump could serve a six-month notice he’s pulling out of NAFTA.

Freeland is to appear before the Senate foreign affairs and trade committee later Tuesday.

A Canadian ratification deadline in June is looming because Parliament will break then and won’t reconvene until after the October federal election.

READ MORE: Liberals promise billions for dairy, chicken farmers affected by trade deals

Some leading U.S. Democrats in Congress say they won’t approve the new trade agreement unless Mexico implements tougher labour standards that elevate the rights of workers and their unions.

Freeland reiterated that U.S. tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum, officially imposed on national-security grounds when negotiations on the new treaty were at a delicate point,, are “absurd” and “illegal” but she stopped short of saying that lifting them would be a precondition to the government ratifying the new continental trade deal.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

BC Wildfire Service makes changes in response to COVID-19

Crews are stationed at Puntzi fire station in the Chilcotin

Stampede Association opening campground for frontline workers April 6

Only doctors, nurses or first responders will be able to use the service

Does COVID-19 have you feeling like escaping to the cottage? Don’t do it, says CRD Chair

This will help avoid potentially overtaxing local healthcare services

In times of COVID-19: Williams Lake university student studying in New Zealand

A Canadian student studying in New Zealand is in his second week… Continue reading

First Nations, remote communities need special attention in pandemic, Freeland says

Health-care workers, seniors, Indigenous Peoples some of people most at risk, health officials say

BC Hydro offers three-month bill ‘holiday’ for those affected by COVID-19

Industrial customers can defer half of their power bills

Some April Fool’s Day jokes bring much-needed laughter; others tone deaf to COVID-19

Police are warning the public not to use the ongoing pandemic as a punchline

Canada’s 75% wage subsidy is coming, but not for several weeks: finance minister

Subsidy will cost Canada $71 billion, but push down cost of emergency benefit, Morneau said

Call before you dig into spring projects during isolation: BC 1 Call

BC 1 Call gives free checks for utilities in the area of a desired outdoor project

B.C.’s intersection speed cameras putting more tickets in the mail

One Nanaimo location delayed after speed limit reduced

B.C. records five new COVID-19 deaths, ‘zero chance’ life will return to normal in April

Province continue to have a recovery rate of about 50 per cent

High cost, limited coverage for asthma medicine a concern during COVID-19 pandemic

B.C. man says he skips puffs to save money, but others have it worse

B.C. man sick with COVID-19 calls it a ‘horrible disease’

Tim Green says he has ‘extreme coughing fits every hour’ to clear his lungs

Most Read