Conservative, NDP and Green Party MPs voted with the Liberals to pass an initial motion Wednesday in favour of ratifying a new trilateral trade agreement between Canada, United States and Mexico.
The House of Commons voted 290-28 in favour of a procedural motion that allowed the government to introduce legislation to ratify the deal. That bill will need to be debated and approved by the House of Commons and the Senate before the ratification process can be completed with royal assent.
Mexico ratified an earlier version of the deal in June, 2019, and approved an amended version in December. U.S. President Donald Trump signed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement into law Wednesday, after approval by the U.S. Congress. That leaves Canada’s parliamentary process as the final hurdle before the deal is fully in place.
Earlier this week, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland wrote to the other parties urging them to pass the legislation as quickly as possible. The Liberal minority government does not have enough votes on its own to pass legislation, nor does it have enough votes to limit debate time. After Wednesday’s vote, Ms. Freeland introduced Bill C-4, the legislation to ratify the agreement.
Conservative MPs, particularly from Quebec, had expressed concern that the latest deal will harm the province’s aluminium and dairy sectors. Bloc Québécois MPs have expressed similar concerns.
The USMCA updates the North American free-trade agreement, which was adopted more than 25 years ago. Many of the changes are aimed at addressing U.S. concerns about Mexican labour standards. The new deal also requires automakers to gradually increase the minimum North American content of vehicles from 62.5 per cent to 75 per cent in order to qualify for tariff exemptions.
The governing Liberals have promised to compensate dairy farmers for elements of the deal that open more of the protected domestic dairy market to U.S. producers.
In Question Period on Wednesday, Conservative MPs called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to provide all relevant reports and information about the economic impacts of the deal so that MPs can thoroughly review its impact. Mr. Trudeau said the government would provide MPs with the information they need.
Government House Leader Pablo Rodriguez said the deal is good for all regions of the country and he hopes “common sense” will lead MPs to pass the bill quickly.
“I hope nobody holds up this accord,” he said Wednesday. “We’ll take the time to debate this in the House and committees but at the end of the day, we have to ratify this. President Trump signed it today. The States have ratified it. Mexico has ratified. … It’s common sense. We all care about our industries. We all care about our workers, our economic development. So because of that, I think we’ll have to work collectively and make this happen."