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‘A really good deal for Canada’: Former ambassadors on new NAFTA

Deputy Prime Minister of Canada Chrystia Freeland, second left, acknowledges the applause as Mexico's top trade negotiator Jesus Seade, right, Mexico's Treasury Secretary Arturo Herrera, second right, and Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, left, applaud after signing an update to the North American Free Trade Agreement, at the national palace in Mexico City, Tuesday, Dec. 10. 2019.(AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

Two former North American trade emissaries are calling the latest version of the new North American Free Trade Agreement an improvement over its predecessor for Canada.

“I think Canada should be especially pleased with [the new agreement],” said Bruce Heyman, former United States ambassador to Canada, in an interview with BNN Bloomberg Tuesday. “This is a really good deal for Canada, especially knowing that [with] your number one trading partner, the U.S., where 75 per cent of your exports go, you now have an updated, modernized agreement.”

Canada, the U.S., and Mexico signed off on an updated version of the new NAFTA on Tuesday, one that had been overhauled from the initial agreement reached last fall to satisfy the House Democrats, who won a Congressional majority in the 2018 U.S. midterm elections. The deal will proceed to an expected vote in the House of Representatives next week and a potential U.S. Senate vote in 2020. The deal still requres ratification in Canada.

Heyman’s one-time counterpart – former Canadian ambassador to the U.S. David MacNaughton – also praised the deal, particularly as it related to Canada’s steel and aluminum industries.

 

“We’re in pretty good shape,” MacNaughton told BNN Bloomberg earlier on Tuesday. “On the steel side of things, it’s good. I think the aluminum producers are worried about some of the provisions … All of these things, all of the provisions, in my view, are an improvement to the old NAFTA, as far as Canada is concerned.”

Both former ambassadors praised the greater regulations that will be placed on wages and labour standards in Mexico, with MacNaughton remarking that the labour playing field has been “substantially levelled” between the countries.

Heyman added that a “corrected” approach to pharmaceuticals over the 2018 draft of the agreement and new provisions to factor in technological advancements and environmental concerns make the deal reached a better one for Canada.

“This is a very good day,” he said. “Every so often you’re able to come out with what I call ‘win-win-win’ solutions, and this is it. We’re here.”

However, while Heyman hoped this would settle the future of U.S. President Donald Trump’s tariffs on various Canadian industries, he wouldn’t say Canada is out of the woods just yet.

“He’s just so unpredictable,” Heyman said. “He’s so hostile when he’s weaponized tariffs against allies and other countries.

“Hopefully, he doesn’t go back to thinking about tariffs on our friends next door, on either side of our border.”

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