Lighthizer celebrates USMCA, promises enforcement as trade deal comes into force

Lighthizer celebrates USMCA, promises enforcement as trade deal comes into force

WASHINGTON — North America’s new trade agreement finally became the law of the land Wednesday, complete with a celebratory warning from the Trump administration that the United States intends to make sure Canada and Mexico live up to their end of the bargain.

U.S. trade ambassador Robert Lighthizer lauded the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement as Donald Trump’s signature achievement, a landmark trade pact that tilts the benefits of continental managed trade back towards workers, farmers and labourers and away from the giant corporations that reaped the rewards of its NAFTA predecessor.

“That’s a monumental change,” Lighthizer said in a statement that promised more jobs, protections for workers, wider access to continental markets and new growth opportunities for businesses of all sizes.

“We have worked closely with the governments of Mexico and Canada to ensure that the obligations and responsibilities of all three nations under the agreement have been met, and we will continue to do so to ensure the USMCA is enforced.”

While the White House and scores of Trump allies in Washington tweeted partisan support for the occasion, the president himself spent the morning preoccupied with some of his favourite foils: the “fake news” mainstream media, Black Lives Matter supporters and presumptive Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden.

The USTR also named 10 people to its roster of arbitrators under the agreement’s dispute-settlement mechanism, a list that includes Julie Bedard, a graduate of McGill University and former Supreme Court of Canada clerk who heads the international litigation and arbitration group for the Americas at Skadden, a prominent New York law firm.

Other names on the U.S. list include former chief federal claims judge Susan Braden, D.C. arbitration expert John Buckley Jr., former international trade commissioner Dennis Devaney and ex-federal prosecutor Mark Hansen.

The panel also includes Stephen Vaughn, the USTR’s former general counsel and key lieutenant to Lighthizer himself who served as acting trade ambassador in the early days of the administration.

The agreement, known in Canadian government circles as CUSMA, is designed to ensure more people in all three countries can reap its benefits — the principal U.S. complaint about the old NAFTA, said Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. and a key player over the course of the often-arduous 13-month negotiation.

“The original NAFTA was extremely successful for us economically, and that’s important to remember,” Hillman said in an interview.

“It was, though — as we all know — dated, and also it was perceived to be, I think fairly so in some respects, not sufficient for ensuring that the benefits of trade were fully utilized by all segments of our society.”

Canada’s negotiators focused on reaching a deal that would improve the lot for workers at home, reduce red tape for small and medium-sized businesses and smooth the growth of digital trade — an especially important component given the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on traditional commercial models.

“Smaller businesses do a lot digitally, and they need to kind of be safeguarded, and there need to be predictable rules that they can count on in order to take the risks of venturing out there into the trading world.”

Not everyone is celebrating the agreement’s coming into force.

Canadian dairy producers and processors, who will see increased U.S. competition in their domestic markets and limits on exports of key products like diafiltered milk and infant formula, have assailed the federal Liberal government for allowing the agreement to come into force before August.

Waiting a month would have given the industry a full year to adjust to the terms of the deal, since Canada’s dairy year begins Aug. 1. But now, producers and processors have just 31 days before the ‘year two’ provisions in the agreement take effect next month.

Both the Dairy Farmers of Canada and the Dairy Processors Association of Canada have insisted they were assured by Ottawa the agreement would not take effect before Aug. 1.

Public Citizen, a left-leaning U.S. consumer advocacy group and outspoken opponent of trade agreements, in particular the original NAFTA, acknowledged that the new agreement makes an effort to improve labour and environmental standards and expand the impact of the benefits of global trade.

But it falls far short of the ideal, said Lori Wallach, director of the group’s international trade watchdog, Global Trade Watch.

“Renegotiating the existing NAFTA to try to reduce its ongoing damage is not the same as crafting a good trade deal that creates jobs, raises wages and protects the environment and public health,” Wallach said in a statement.

“The new NAFTA is not a template, but rather sets the floor from which we will fight for trade policies that put working people and the planet first.”

Wallach also noted that the agreement is coming into force with a prominent labour lawyer behind bars in Mexico. Susana Prieto Terrazas, known for leading a crusade for higher wages and union protection for workers in border assembly plants, was arrested June 10 on charges of inciting riots, threats and coercion.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 1, 2020.

— Follow James McCarten on Twitter @CdnPressStyle

James McCarten , The Canadian Press

USMCA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday March 20, 2020. nbsp;Alberta is reporting it's highest daily number of COVID-19 cases, with 364 new infections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta confirmed 323 COVID-19 cases Tuesday

Central zone active cases at 145

The Lacombe Generals celebrate a goal in Game 4 of their five-game series against the Daysland Northstars, Feb. 8, 2020. (File Photo)
Lacombe General, North Central Hockey League cancels upcoming season

Due to COVID-19 concerns, the senior AA league will resume in 2021

Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, receive flu shot. Photo via Government of Alberta
COVID-19: One more death in central zone

Ponoka County on province’s watchlist

Many rural municipalities were concerned about a proposed reduction to their industrial revenues, but Alberta’s Municipal Affairs minister has come up with an alternative solution. (Photo contributed)
Province and rural municipalities agree on a plan to support Alberta’s energy industry

Creating new wells or pipelines would result in a three year ‘tax holiday’

East Central Express also offers wedding or event shuttle services and tours of the Rocky Mountains. Photo courtesy of East Central Express.
On-demand bus service will now stop in Lacombe

As the winter months arrive, Rob Duncan expects demand for his bus and taxi services to grow

Conservative member of Parliament Pierre Poilievre speaks during a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on October 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals say Tory effort to set up COVID-19 committee will be a confidence matter

The Tories were originally proposing an ‘anticorruption’ committee

(The Canadian Press)
Alberta-raised Cree actor lands role in Disney’s live-action ‘Peter Pan and Wendy’

Tiger Lily is featured in Disney’s 1953 animated “Peter Pan” film

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday February 4, 2020 in Ottawa. The Alberta government is welcoming news that Ottawa has approved an expansion of the Nova Gas Transmission Ltd. gathering system in Alberta — while condemning federal delays that it says cost this summer’s construction season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Alberta welcomes federal approval of gas pipeline expansion while criticizing delay

Pipeline division owned by Calgary-based TC Energy Corp. will now be required to restore 3,840 hectares of caribou habitat,

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

Alberta Premier Jason Kenny and government house leader Jason Nixon chat before the speech from the throne delivered in Edmonton, Alta., on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. Alberta politicians are to return to the legislature Tuesday with a plan to discuss up to 20 new bills — many of which are focused on the province’s economic recovery. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta legislature to resume Tuesday; focus to be on economic recovery

Opposition house leader Heather Sweet said the NDP will focus on holding Premier Jason Kenney

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

robbery
UPDATE: Suspect identified in early morning shooting

Rimbey RCMP had responded to a complaint of an armed robbery at the Bluffton City General Store

Executive Director of Agape Kate Halas (left) receives $1000 from Sgt. Eric Christensen (right) on behalf of Agape. Photo/ Shaela Dansereau.
Former Wetaskiwin Peace Officer wins provincial award; gives back to Wetaskiwin community

Eric Christensen has won the Alberta Association of Community Peace Officers Award of Excellence.

Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen (Alberta government photo)
Big boost for Alberta college agriculture research

The $2-million agreement to benefit Lethbridge College’s applied research team

Most Read