Debate to enact new continental trade pact kicks off in House of Commons


OTTAWA — Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland has kicked off debate on a bill to implement the new North American free trade deal by urging MPs to approve the proposed legislation quickly.

“Canadians have come a long way since 2017, when Canada’s most important trading relationship, indeed our national prosperity itself, was put at serious risk,” she said Thursday.

More than two years of work, since U.S. President Donald Trump demanded the three-country deal be revised, have produced an agreement that preserves the core of the existing North American Free Trade Agreement while improving parts of it that affect numerous Canadian industries, Freeland said.

Conservative MP Randy Hoback was more critical.

The Saskatchewan MP praised the cross-partisan “Team Canada” approach to negotiating a new deal and thanked Freeland for involving other parties.

“I know they did their best. I really do. I know they tried their best and did their best, but having said that, there is some shortfalls, there is some problems,” he said. “I think the reality is the president and Mexico sat down and did a deal and they came back to Canada and said ‘Here you go, take it or leave it.’ And that’s disappointing. It didn’t have to be that way.”

The deal needs close scrutiny and effort to mitigate any problems it creates, Hoback said.

But he signalled that at the end of that, the Conservatives expect the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement to be approved. The Liberals will need the backing of at least one other official party to pass the legislation in the Commons.

“Our party supports, and wants a free-trade deal with Canada, the U.S. and Mexico,” Hoback said. “Some things are just too big to play politics with.”

The United States and Mexico have already ratified the agreement and President Donald Trump held a signing ceremony at the White House Wednesday.

The Canadian implementation bill was introduced in the House of Commons later that day, to begin the process of garnering parliamentary approval.

A host of industry groups and premiers have come out asking MPs and senators to support the bill without delay.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to talk about the agreement at an event in the Toronto area this afternoon.


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