Ottawa will introduce legislation to ratify Canada’s new trade agreement with the United States and Mexico as soon as next week, according to a senior Canadian government official.
Plans are under way inside the government to introduce the bill as soon as possible following the United States’ decision last week to drop tariffs on steel and aluminum, which had been a major irritant for Canada and Mexico.
The official was granted anonymity by The Globe and Mail in order to discuss details that have not been formally announced.
With just four sitting weeks remaining before MPs are scheduled to break for a summer recess and a fall election, Parliament will face a tight timeline to review and approve the bill.
Negotiations to reach the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement – or USMCA – concluded last fall, but none of the three countries have so far adopted legislation to enact the deal. The agreement would replace the existing North American free-trade agreement, which Donald Trump promised to revoke during his 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.
Alex Lawrence, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, said no final decision has been made on when the bill will be introduced, but that last week’s tariff decision means the government can now move ahead with legislation.
“As the Foreign Minister said, as long as the United States’ steel and aluminum tariffs were in place it would have been difficult for Canada to ratify the new NAFTA," he said in an e-mail. "Now that this obstacle has been removed, our government will move forward with the ratification process.”
U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence will visit Ottawa next Thursday to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The United States has said the focus of the May 30 visit is to push for the “swift adoption” of USMCA.
"The Vice-President looks forward to meeting with Prime Minister Trudeau to discuss how to move forward swiftly to advance this critical deal,” Alyssa Farah, press secretary to the Vice-President, said in a statement this week.
The Liberal government already faces a packed legislative calendar as it attempts to pass key elements of its agenda before Parliament is dissolved and the election campaign begins. The fall election is scheduled for Oct. 21, according to fixed-date election legislation.
The House of Commons is currently scheduled to rise on June 21, while the Senate is scheduled to sit until June 28. Under new changes to Canada’s Elections Act, a pre-election period that imposes rules in areas such as political party advertising begins June 30.
Mr. Trump urged Democratic Party leaders this week to make approving USMCA a priority in Congress, but no firm timeline has so far emerged in Washington.
Conservative Foreign Affairs critic Erin O’Toole said his party will cooperate with the government to pass the bill through the House of Commons.
The Liberal government will also have to seek the cooperation of the Senate, where a majority of the members sit as independents.
“The Senate is going to be the big challenge for them,” said Mr. O’Toole, adding that Parliament may have to sit into the summer to pass the bill.