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.

Just Posted

“Does Kirby care?” Heiltsuk Nation using geo-targeted ads in Houston, Texas for justice

The Heiltsuk Tribal Council has called out Kirby Corporation for the Nathan E. Stewart oil spill

“No excuse” for killing of two young grizzly cubs

Reader hopeful someone will come forward with information

UPDATE: U.S. firm fined $2.9M for fuel spill that soiled B.C. First Nation territory

The Nathan E. Stewart spilled 110,000 litres of diesel and heavy oils in October 2016

No delivery services hard on local families

New parents Candace Knudsen and Bjorn Samuelsen spent five weeks away from home

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Vancouver Island teens missing after vehicle found ablaze near Dease Lake, BC

RCMP say a body discovered nearby not one of the missing teens

A year later, ceremony commemorates victims of the Danforth shooting

It’s the one-year anniversary of when a man opened fire along the bustling street before shooting and killing himself

Japanese Canadians call on B.C. to go beyond mere apology for historic racism

The federal government apologized in 1988 for its racism against ‘enemy aliens’

B.C. VIEWS: NDP pushes ahead with Crown forest redistribution

This isn’t the time for a radical Indigenous rights agenda

Two dead in two-vehicle crash between Revelstoke and Golden

RCMP are investigating the cause of the crash

Ottawa fights planned class action against RCMP for bullying, intimidation

The current case is more general, applying to employees, including men, who worked for the RCMP

Alberta judge denies B.C.’s bid to block ‘Turn Off the Taps’ bill

He said the proper venue for the disagreement is Federal Court

Most Read