Time and time again, Canada bears the brunt of many jokes claiming that our great nation is, in
essence, the 51st state of the United States of America.
Canadians emphatically reject these jabs by pointing out that we have our own identity, our own culture, and most importantly the ability to act independently and, in fact, much differently than the U.S. on the world stage. At a fundamental level, as a country, we have always maintained the ability to forge our own
partnerships and agreements with other countries independent from United States.
With the signing of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, Canada has relinquished this ability.
From start to finish, the negotiation of this agreement was entirely for the purpose of achieving a
better deal for the United States. Do not be fooled by the Prime Minister’s rhetoric. This is a bad
deal for Canada. Just look at what the Government is claiming as “wins”.
Justin Trudeau will surely try to tell you that keeping Chapter 19 (dispute resolution mechanism) in the agreement is a win for Canada. Canadians know better than to think that simply keeping something we already had is somehow worth the concessions that were made. Admittedly, there are positive steps
forward such as the elimination of the investor-state dispute settlement provisions and a new
chapter on environmental protections, but in no way are these the gigantic leaps forward that the
Prime Minister would have you believe.
In fact, it is unclear why Canada made so many concessions to achieve so little. Canada offered
up increased access to supply managed industries like dairy, eggs, chicken and turkey, allowed
for intellectual property changes that will end up resulting in higher prescription drug costs for
Canadians, failed to eliminate ‘Buy America’ policies that prohibit Canadian companies from
bidding on American projects, the list goes on and on. Canada seemingly gave, gave, gave and
the U.S. took, took, took.
For example, when I learned that this new deal was signed I was at least somewhat optimistic
that this would mean the end of steel and aluminum tariffs that the United States had put in
place. These tariffs have been a direct hit to numerous industries in Canada. However, not only
was the Government unable to have these tariffs eliminated as a condition of signing the
agreement, the United States has said that there is not even a timeline to have them eliminated.
When you give something up, there should be something given in return.
All of this said, the absolute most concerning aspect of this deal is in article 32.10. This article
essentially eliminates Canada’s ability to act independently to negotiate new trade agreements
with countries who are considered “non-market” countries. The article gives Washington the
ability to determine what a non-market country is and requires Canada to give notice if we want to
seek a deal with one of these countries. If we continue with negotiations, the United States will
have the final say on whether we may go forward or not and any potential agreement must be
given to the U.S. for their review.
Let that sink in. Donald Trump will have to sign off on any potential Canadian agreement with another country. If the U.S. does not like our actions they will have the grounds to terminate the USMCA by giving 6 months’ notice.
This diminishing of Canada’s sovereignty is astounding. We no longer have the ability to look
for new trading partners without first getting permission from Donald Trump in the White
House. This critical part of the deal will go down in history as one of Canada’s biggest foreign
policy blunders on trade.
I will close with a quote from Wenran Jiang, a senior fellow at the Institute of Asian Research at
the University of British Columbia. Professor Jiang states: “If you are looking for a 21st -century
version of the 19th-century colonial-era unequal treaty between nations, look no further than the
recently announced United States – Mexico – Canada Agreement”. As the title of Professor Jiang’s article states, under USMCA, Canada is neither strong nor free.
While I am pleased that a deal was signed, it is important to review the entire deal very carefully
which I will continue to do. So far though, it appears that the interests of the U.S. seem to have
‘trumped’ Canadian interests in this deal. At first glance, with this deal in place, the United States
has taken strides to make those 51st state jokes a Canadian reality.
Larry Miller, MP