House Call with Carol Hughes

The government shouldn’t rush an imperfect trade deal

Given that Canada and the United States are two of the world’s closest allies, it’s almost impossible to overstate how interconnected the relationship between the two countries is—naturally, that includes trade. This is why it’s important for businesses on both sides of the border to have a trade deal that’s fair and predictable.

That isn’t necessarily the case with the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) replacement, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which promises to hurt people in all three countries by creating an uneven playing field that largely favours corporations. Under NAFTA, Canada lost 400,000 jobs and this new deal looks to offer more of the same, while also potentially undermining our sovereignty.

One red flag in particular is how the USMCA includes language that gives the United States the upper hand, including the ability to strong-arm Canada by restricting who we can trade with. This is concerning, given the current American administration’s propensity to declare trade wars at the drop of a hat, showing that they only seem to be interested in one-sided deals that put ‘America first.’

But a deal without mutual benefit is scarcely ‘free’ trading and Canada should not be looking to sacrifice an equal partnership just to stroke the ego of the president. There needs to be stronger language inside of the USMCA that treats all countries as equal partners. New Democrats believe that trade should be a partnership between countries that ensures safe and fair labour conditions for all involved, appropriate environmental protections, and the ability to exchange goods and services without undue frustration. This deal is lacking on all these fronts.

It’s not like there isn’t hope; in fact, there’s a strong possibility that progressive changes are on the way in the US That’s because the Democrats, fresh off mid-term victories, are working to improve the USMCA to include better labour provisions, lower drug costs and stronger environmental protections. That means Canada should wait, but instead the government is using the last few weeks of session to try and push through an incomplete version that hurts Canadians just to please President Trump.

There are good reasons for the government to wait for progressive changes that will align better with Canadian values and will go a long way to protect workers. If they push USMCA through before fixing the deal, they are going to throw away a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make trade more fair for Canadian workers and businesses. New Democrats believe that Canada has a lot to protect when we negotiate trade deals, which is why we have always advocated for protecting important things like universal healthcare along with maintaining our labour and environmental standards.

This is why it’s important to wait and see what the Democrats can achieve in the US. New Democrats aren’t alone in calling for fair trade that benefits the unique interests of Canada, which is why we are confident the USMCA is simply not good enough in its current form. We believe working people shouldn’t have to pay the price for bad negotiations or rushed legislation—especially with better options on the horizon. If the government truly wants the progressive trade agenda they talk about, they should be willing to support the New Democrats in their efforts to improve the deal and wait to see if that works out.