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

Summerland’s Beer house recognized for heritage value

Building on Jubilee Road was constructed more than a century ago

WEB POLL: Would you like to see a new highway built between B.C. and Central Alberta?

Building another highway through the mountains would shave 95 km from Kamloops to Red Deer

WEB POLL: Would you like to see the proposed highway connecting Red Deer to Kamloops built?

The idea to build a highway connecting Highway 11 at Saskatchewan River… Continue reading

Summerland basketball team advances to Provincials

Summerland senior girls team wins regional meet, will compete in Langley

Summerland property taxes forecast to rise

Proposed municipal budget calls for increase of four per cent

VIDEO: 7 things you need to know about the 2020 B.C. budget

Surplus of $227 million with big spending on infrastructure and capital projects

Man arrested following theft, threats at Kelowna store

The 20-year-old man remains in police custody and faces a number of potential charges

Higher costs should kill Trans Mountain pipeline, federal opposition says

Most recent total was $12.6 billion, much higher than a previous $7.4-billion estimate

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say they’ll meet with ministers if RCMP get out

Federal minister in charge of Indigenous relations has proposed a meeting to diffuse blockades

Okanagan Spring Wine Festival tickets now on sale

The festival takes place from Apr. 30. to May. 17.

Trees Cannabis director fined $1.5M for selling marijuana

Fine follows provincial crackdown on popular dispensary

World Cup skier from Okanagan dies suddenly at 19

Kuroda, who made his World Cup debut earlier this year, passed away suddenly Monday night.

Coastal GasLink pipeline investor committed to closing deal despite protests

Developer TC Energy Corp. — formerly TransCanada Corp. — is to remain the operator of the $6.6-billion pipeline

Most Read