NAFTA for the 21st Century

Author’s Note: C-4, the “Canada–United States–Mexico Agreement Implementation Act,” received Royal Assent on March 13, 2020. As the Senate sponsor of Bill C-4, this is the speech I was prepared to deliver that day at Second Reading in the Senate. However, given the global emergency that is the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent urgency for Parliament to pass critical government legislation, I delivered a shortened version of the speech below, the full text of which can be accessed here.


Peter M. Boehm

Honourable senators, it is my great pleasure to rise today to speak as the sponsor of Bill C-4, An Act to implement the Agreement between Canada, the United States of America and the United Mexican States.

Otherwise known in Canada as CUSMA, and « l’ACEUM » en français, – or “the new NAFTA” or “NAFTA 2.0” or “NAFTA plus” – and USMCA in the United States and T-MEC in Mexico, this trinational agreement is, essentially, a modernized version of the original treaty of 1994.

It is NAFTA for the 21st century.

Regardless on which side of the political fence you sit – or squarely on top of it as I sometimes do – this agreement is a win for Canada and for our national economy, our industry, our agriculture and agri-food sector, and our workers.

All Canadians win.

Once implemented, it will not only protect Canadian jobs but will help to prepare us better for the jobs of the future.

It will also ensure long-term stability, predictability and, most importantly, growth, in the North American market.

We should not just be happy with the end result of more than a year of difficult negotiations – with at least one especially challenging opponent.

We should also be happy with the team that brought us to this point.

Canada’s negotiating team – and it was indeed a team – led by then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, and our Chief Trade Negotiator, Steve Verheul, was comprised of some of Canada’s, and the world’s, best and brightest public servants.

I am honoured to have worked with many of them in my previous career. They are, quite simply, the best in the world at what they do. This was an “all in” effort by our Government and our Public Service.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau engaged repeatedly with his counterparts, American President Donald Trump and former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and his successor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

It was my privilege to be privy to some of these discussions.

This agreement – signed in Mexico City on December 10, 2019 – bolsters the original deal of 1994 by modernizing key chapters, some of which certainly warranted review.

It also improves on the original CUSMA, which was signed on November 30, 2018, during the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Buenos Aires.

So, really, this is CUSMA 2.0…or “the new CUSMA,” or…never mind.

Renegotiating NAFTA was definitely not something Canada, or Mexico, wanted, although there was a general recognition that some changes should be made.

After all, in the interval, we had entered the digital age, our global supply chains had multiplied significantly, and our environment had become more threatened.

We were pushed into negotiations about a trade deal that has served Canada, and North America, very well – by any measure – for more than 25 years. The choice with which we were presented seemed to be a better NAFTA or no NAFTA at all.

The question was on whose terms.

We chose the latter and came away with an agreement that maintains all the most important elements of NAFTA for our country while improving on a number of them. But as in any negotiation, you have to give a little to get a little.

Today I want to speak to some of the highlights of this agreement, some of the challenges, and where this takes our relationship with the United States and, increasingly, Mexico.

First, though, a little history.

Our trading relationship with the United States has been multifarious, comprehensive, and complex. Pick your adjective. It has largely been based on mutual respect.

This is particularly true given that our trade and investment relationship evolved from trading basic commodities such as lumber, metal ores, fish, and food products to the complexities of integrated supply chains and “just in time” delivery in the automotive sector.

Neither this great trading relationship, involving more than $2 billion in trade and services crossing our border every day, nor this new agreement, can be fully captured in the 280 characters provided by the egocentric echo chamber that is Twitter – though many have tried. Many times.

When I was posted to our Embassy in Washington from 2001 to 2004, the Embassy spent a great deal of time on the softwood lumber dispute.

There was one day on which our Executive Committee met – chaired by our Ambassador at the time, Michael Kergin – that started like any other but very soon became one that changed the world, as we knew it, forever.

That day was September 11, 2001.

My colleagues and I were in our Embassy on Pennsylvania Avenue when the planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.We saw the smoke from the burning Pentagon on the horizon.

Something like that certainly puts things into perspective. We dropped our work on a potential new softwood lumber agreement to attend to matters of national and North American security.

All that to say, our bilateral relationship with the United States goes far beyond softwood lumber and NAFTA and CUSMA, and trade more generally.

We have been strong allies since before Canada was even a country – both out of necessity borne of our shared border and out of respect for the international rules-based order and the advent of multilateral global institutions.

We worked together to create all of this after World War II. By many measures there has rarely been such a mutually beneficial, and peaceful, relationship between two neighbours – the War of 1812 notwithstanding.

Despite the peace and profitable trading relationship long enjoyed by our two countries, there have been sticking points on trade from the very beginning – from even before Canada became Canada.

And, even then, softwood lumber was front and centre.

Some things never change/.

Our trading relationship, though mutually beneficial especially since 1994, has never been equal because there has never been a level playing field.

Whatever has been the subject of negotiations, successive Canadian governments – and I have served a few – have attempted to tilt that playing field in our favour.

It is our only move considering our population and GDP each amount to about one tenth that of our neighbour.

Colleagues, this is the part where I regale you all with the history of trade agreements and reciprocity between Canada and the United States.

I will try to be concise.

Historically, there have been many trade agreements between us and the Americans, each with varying levels of success.

Even before Canada became a sovereign country in 1867, the United Kingdom established a reciprocity agreement with the United States in 1854 which applied to the UK’s territories in North America.

Although the deal eventually collapsed in 1866, it represented the first moves in North America toward free trade.

The Canadian-American Reciprocity Treaty of 1854 was focused on some of the same issues that garnered so much attention during NAFTA and CUSMA negotiations: agriculture and, of course, softwood lumber.

The catalyst for our first bilateral trade deal 166 years ago was the view of grain farmers and millers in Upper Canada that the economy would benefit greatly from a strong partnership with the United States.

By the time the deal ended in 1866, trade between Canada and the United States had increased significantly and prosperity came along with it.

However, protectionism being nothing new, critics of free trade in the United States and Americans angry with the British for their implicit support of the Confederacy during the American Civil War joined together to tank the deal.

Following this devastating war, there was also a desire in the United States to focus attention inward – the 19th century version of “America first.”

As Canada, and its economy, grew, the dynamic between Canada and the United States changed. Between 1866 and 1911, many attempts were made to sign a new trade deal but protectionism and differing priorities stood in the way.

In the election of 1891, Wilfrid Laurier and the Liberals campaigned for free trade negotiations with the Americans but lost to the Conservatives, led by Prime Minister John A. Macdonald, who conversely – and successfully – campaigned on the threat of American invasion.

The question of reciprocity took a backseat, in both countries, until 1908, when Republican William Howard Taft was elected President of the United States.

President Taft enjoyed Canada and even had a home in La Malbaie, in the Charlevoix region of Quebec. He referred to its air as “intoxicating like champagne without the next day’s hangover.” It is not hard to see why he was so popular with the locals of what, at that time, was called “Murray Bay.”

Fast forward 108 years to when the United States elected another Republican president who once visited Charlevoix – though this one consistently threatens to increase tariffs.

All too often, he actually follows through.

We all remember what happened with steel and aluminum last year – more on that later.

Back to President Taft. Despite protectionist sentiment in the United States and especially in his own party, Taft advocated for a free trade deal with Canada.

The same feelings were not, well, reciprocated, quite as strongly in Canada where the fear was that history would repeat itself.

That, as was the case with the Canadian-American Reciprocity Treaty of 1854, a new deal would not be renewed if it was no longer convenient for the Americans.

In 1910, the Liberals under Laurier – who became Prime Minister after the election of 1896 – began free trade negotiations with the United States. Talks were successful and an agreement, focused mainly on lumber and natural products over manufactured products, was announced in early 1911.

Despite a rough go in the protectionist Senate, the implementing legislation passed both houses of the United States Congress by July 1911.

In Canada, however, the bill faced a much stiffer challenge in the House of Commons due to staunch opposition, mostly from Conservatives but also from some of the Prime Minister’s own Liberals.

Ultimately, members of Parliament against the deal were successful in insisting that the decision be put to the Canadian people.

In the “Reciprocity Election,” as it was known, Laurier and the Liberals were soundly defeated. The electorate decisively rejected the treaty and elected the Conservatives, led by Robert Borden.

With that result, both main parties and the public considered the matter closed; free trade with our Southern neighbors would not come up again until the mid-30s.

In November of 1935, during the Great Depression, Canada signed its first free trade deal with the United States since 1854.

The agreement led to a new era in Canada-U.S. relations and helped to forge a strong relationship between Prime Minister Mackenzie King and President Franklin Roosevelt.

The Canadian-American Trade Agreement came into effect on January 1, 1936 and was updated in 1938. Ultimately it was suspended in 1948 when both countries signed on to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, or the GATT – the precursor to the World Trade Organization.

Now for the modern era, colleagues.

The next big free trade deal between Canada and the United States came in 1987 when the Conservative government led by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and President Ronald Reagan signed the Canada–U.S. Free Trade Agreement.

The election of 1988 was, in essence, a second “Reciprocity Election” as its main focus was this new free trade deal with the United States.

The tables were turned this time around, though, as it was the Conservatives in favour and the Liberals against.

The result was the same as in 1911, however: the Conservatives won.

Like its predecessors, CUSFTA – there are catchier acronyms, including simply the FTA – eliminated many trade barriers between the two countries. This was a big change.

Six years later, this was superseded by the North American Free Trade Agreement – which, as you all know, is still the law of the land until CUSMA enters into force.

So, while the first 140 years of our trading relationship with the United States was full of ups and downs, the last 25 have been hugely successful. Despite much uncertainty over the past couple of those years, our new agreement promises to usher in an even more fruitful era in North American trade.

Of course, the treaty before us today is not a binational one. Since NAFTA in 1994, trade in North America has included all three of its largest countries in one agreement.

Ahora, permiteme algunas palabras sobre México.

(Allow me to say a few words about Mexico.)

Until NAFTA came into force, Canada and Mexico had no formal trade deal.

Our two countries have enjoyed strong diplomatic relations since 1944 but it was not until 1994 that our relationship took that all-important next step.

Colleagues, I am no expert on geometry – trust me, I have a point – but I do see the relationships in North America as somewhat of an isosceles triangle.

The two long sides represent the relationships that both Canada and Mexico enjoy with the United States; the shorter one the Canada-Mexico relationship.

There may be a time, however, in a distant future, when an equilateral triangle characterizes these relationships.

All three countries are members of the G20 and Canada’s relationship with Mexico has blossomed from us seeing Mexico as a lovely winter tourism destination to a key trading partner.

Our total bilateral trade has increased nine-fold from approximately US$3 billion when NAFTA entered into force to nearly US$27 billion in 2018.

Canada and Mexico also work closely on hemispheric foreign policy issues and frequently compare notes on how to handle the giant neighbour between us.

Lots to talk about there.

At the outset of this speech, I referred to the fact that CUSMA is an improved version of NAFTA.

That, while Canada and Mexico had no desire to reopen a trade deal that has worked well for more than 25 years, there were indeed provisions that warranted review and modernization.

These include labour and environment as well as issues related to the digital revolution. In this case, under especially challenging circumstances, despite no monumental changes, Canada won by gaining some ground and giving up little of it.

In essentially maintaining the status quo, the Canadian negotiators achieved their goal – all the more impressive given the protectionist, anti-NAFTA rhetoric from south of the border of which we heard so much beginning in 2015.

As I said, the goal of our negotiators was to modernize the original deal of 1994 without losing any ground.

“The nature of a negotiation” after all said Rona Ambrose, member of the Government’s NAFTA Council, is that “everyone gained a little and everyone gave up a little.”

That quote is from August 2019 but the criticisms Ms. Ambrose was addressing, including from her former colleagues, began long before and have continued since, and throughout the debates on this legislation in the other place.

CUSMA is not perfect – what deal ever has been? – but it is one with which Canadians – all Canadians, of all political stripes – should be pleased.

Crucially, this new agreement preserves tariff-free access for Canada to our most important markets. The value of this cannot be overstated, colleagues. The new NAFTA also retains the dispute settlement process, Canada’s cultural exception, and temporary entry provisions, all of which were in the original agreement of 1994.

This agreement also includes stronger provisions on the auto industry rules of origin to incentivize production in North America, improved labour standards and working conditions in all three countries, and increased trade and investment opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses.

A number of these points have proved to be challenging.

In particular, Canada’s concessions regarding our supply management system which will result in American farmers having modestly greater access to our dairy, egg, and poultry markets. There are supply-managed Canadian farmers who are not exactly thrilled about this increased competition, though they have, and will, be compensated for losses incurred as a result.

I will speak more about compensation in a few minutes.

It is important to remember that the administration in the United States was calling for the complete dismantlement of our supply management system. Loved by Canadian farmers and resented by American and other foreign farmers, it has long been a contentious issue during trade negotiations.

Americans never liked our supply management system. During my time at our Embassy in Washington, I recall a meeting I had with a Congressman from the Midwest. He drily, but seriously, informed me that if it were up to him, he would have the Canadian Wheat Board added to the “Axis of Evil.”

As many of you know, the Canadian Wheat Board was phased-out in 2012 as a result of legislation introduced by the Harper Government. Canada still sells a great deal of wheat, of course.

The world did not end, colleagues. Despite considerable efforts by the Americans to do away with supply management, our own Government defended and successfully preserved our system – and tens of thousands of Canadian jobs in the process.

Canada did provide incremental market access on supply-managed products to the United States in line with commitments made during negotiations for our deal with the European Union, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Despite modest market access concessions, Canadian dairy farmers will continue to supply the vast majority of the Canadian market. In addition, Canada has negotiated reciprocal access to the U.S. dairy market, including tonne-for-tonne access for most dairy products. It is also important to note that all three of these major multilateral trade agreements maintain our supply management system.

On the subject of compensation, the Government announced in August 2019 details of the aid package first proposed in its budget last March. Under the Dairy Direct Payment Program, the Government will compensate our 11,000 supply-managed cow’s milk producers to offset losses they will incur under CUSMA, as well as ones already felt under CETA and CPTPP.

Over a period of eight years, the Government will pay a total of $1.75 billion to producers of cow’s milk.

Another of the more contentious areas during negotiations was protection and enforcement of intellectual property, or IP, rights – one of the most challenging and technically-complex disciplines in modern trade policy.

The new NAFTA establishes clear minimum standards on IP rights and enforcement across North America.

This will allow Canadian innovators to continue to confidently conduct business with our American and Mexican partners, with the benefit of a predictable standard of IP protection and enforcement for their products in all three markets.

Under CUSMA, all three parties agreed to an updated, comprehensive chapter on IP rights protection and enforcement, with obligations on copyright and related rights, trademarks, geographical indications, industrial designs, patents, pharmaceutical IP, data protection for agricultural chemical products, trade secrets, and IP rights enforcement in the civil, criminal, and border contexts.

Canada, the United States, and Mexico also agreed to delete a provision negotiated in the original CUSMA on data protection for biologic drugs. This means that Canada will no longer need to amend its domestic regime to provide ten years of data protection for this category of pharmaceuticals.

In addition, Canada will not be required to make changes to its domestic patent or pharmaceutical IP regime in order to implement the amended provisions.

In other words, colleagues, we need not worry about having to wait those two extra years to take advantage of advancements to Botox.

Also, during negotiations, Canada was clear that eliminating Chapter 19 – the dispute resolution process for anti-dumping and countervailing duties – as the United States wanted, would be unacceptable.

This was, in Ms Ambrose’s opinion, “the heart of the deal for Canada.”

The Americans wanted to do away with Chapter 19 altogether in favour of solely having US courts adjudicate trade disagreements. Despite this being one of the more challenging issues between the two countries, Canada was able to maintain NAFTA’s independent mechanism for settling trade disputes between governments.

An element of the original NAFTA that Canada did want eliminated before finalizing the new agreement was what had been known as the energy “proportionality clause.”

Basically, this provision meant that NAFTA members would need to provide each other the opportunity to maintain a proportionate percentage of their domestic energy products – oil, gas, et cetera – based on recent export levels.

While this provision was never actually invoked, elimination of the proportionality clause in the new agreement is a win for Canada.

This is a clause that the NDP, in particular, has always been against on environmental grounds. The fact that energy proportionality is not part of CUSMA is important because it demonstrates that North America enjoys a high level of energy security.

Dispute resolution and energy security are two more extremely complex issues that, speaking of eruptions, have treated us to countless streams of the aforementioned 280 characters.

On that note, no speech on this agreement would be complete without discussing steel and aluminum.

Earlier in my remarks I said I would discuss this issue further, specifically the tariffs imposed by the United States in 2018 against steel and aluminum from Canada, along with Mexico and the European Union.

These tariffs were as unfair as they were arbitrary. To add insult to injury, the tariffs on Canada were imposed under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which allows the President to impose tariffs on goods entering the United States which are deemed to “threaten to impair the national security.”

In short, the United States levied tariffs on our steel and aluminum under the guise of “national security” concerns. To use such a designation against Canada, of all countries, was as unjustified as it was spurious. There was no national security basis whatsoever for these tariffs.

President Trump admitted as much when he went to Twitter on June 8, 2018, to complain about Canadian tariffs on American dairy products.

Canada’s response was one of many examples of strong leadership in the face of unprecedented challenges on the free trade front.

As now Deputy Prime Minister Freeland recalled during her speech to introduce C-4 in the other place on January 30:

We defended ourselves without rancour, but with firmness, imposing perfectly reciprocal, dollar-for-dollar tariffs on the United States even as team Canada fanned out across the U.S., reminding our friends, allies and neighbours that they rely on us for trade, too.

“Colleagues, it would have been easy for our elected leaders to respond with the same threats and negative comments that were thrown at us, but that is not the Canadian way.

We stand up for what we believe in with respect and dignity.

For that we should all be thankful.

To paraphrase the immortal Tom Petty, “we will stand our ground, and we won’t back down.”

On June 1, 2018, import tariffs of 25 percent on Canadian steel and 10 percent on aluminum took effect. Canada retaliated with reciprocal tariffs on American steel and aluminum. It was not until May 17, 2019, that the tariffs were lifted, in both countries, after an understanding was reached.

There were no winners here.

Steel and aluminum producers and workers, on both sides of the border, were hurt by being caught in the middle. Make no mistake, though: Canada’s measured, proportional response helped to put an end to this unjustified mini trade war.

Under the new NAFTA, our team negotiated two side letters with the United States, both of which took effect on November 30, 2018.

Under the first side letter, which is general in terms of products, Canada secured a commitment from the United States to provide at least a 60-day exemption from any future measures under Section 232. During this time, the United States and Canada would seek to negotiate an appropriate outcome based on industry dynamics and historical trading patterns.

The second side letter deals with autos and ensures that 2.6 million automobiles originating in Canada will be exempted annually from Section 232 measures – this does not include light trucks, which are completely exempt.

This letter also exempts US$32.4 billion worth of auto parts originating in Canada every year.

Both sets of exemptions are extremely important because they allow Canadian automobile and parts manufacturers to continue to participate in integrated supply chains, even if another Section 232 tariff was imposed.

Crucially, these side letters do not preclude Canada from exercising its rights under World Trade Organization rules. We will still be able to challenge Section 232 measures and retaliate against the United States in kind, as was the case over steel and aluminum.

This brings me to the last, and perhaps most consequential, of the sticking points in that it caused much delay in the United States and thus, in the ratification process.

I speak, of course, about labour standards in Mexico, which was a key source of concern for the Democrats in the House of Representatives.

In T-MEC, as CUSMA is known in Mexico, there are labour standards not contained in the original NAFTA.

As our Deputy Prime Minister said in January at the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos, these labour reforms are “probably the most revolutionary element” of the new agreement.

This is another win for Canada, which pushed hard for their inclusion in its own chapter, along with one dedicated to the environment and one on Indigenous peoples.

The chapter on labour makes clear that the three signatories will respect the core conventions of the International Labour Organization, which include, among others, the rights of workers to freedom of association and to collective bargaining, including the provision that all votes on union matters and on leadership will be conducted privately.

On these specific rules, under the dispute settlement chapter, Canada set up a bilateral process with Mexico – specifically a facility-specific rapid-response mechanism – to “provide Canada with an enhanced process to ensure the effective implementation of specific labour obligations in covered facilities.”

This new mechanism will ultimately ensure employers in covered facilities are held to their commitments on workers’ rights. Mexico also has the same agreement with the United States.

Crucially, the labour outcomes were also strongly endorsed by major American business organizations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.

The President of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka, referred to CUSMA as “an agreement that working people can proudly support.”

The same goes for our Canadian workers.

On our side, Unifor National President, Jerry Dias – who was certainly not a fan of the original NAFTA – said upon the signing of this agreement last December that it “provides a road map to implement necessary changes in trade policy to benefit workers” and that “the improvements…are a helpful boost in achieving those objectives.”

Further, and helpfully, President López Obrador also said he is committed to reforming Mexico’s labour practices and promised to promote regulatory compliance in Mexico, as did Canada and the United States in our own countries.

In keeping with our resolve in ensuring fairness in North American labour standards, the Government of Canada is working with representatives of the Mexican government to support Mexico’s domestic efforts on labour reform.

Beyond the changes on intellectual property, specifically around biologics, and groundbreaking labour reforms, a number of other changes were made to the agreement signed in 2018.

There were also updates in the areas of state-to-state dispute settlement and rules of origin, specifically on steel and aluminum.

As I mentioned a few minutes ago, the agreement contains a dedicated chapter on the environment. This further bolsters the point that this is, as the Deputy Prime Minister said on January 30, “the most progressive trade deal our country has ever negotiated” and is, in her estimation, “the most progressive trade deal in the world.”

On the environment, the major takeaway is that the provisions are subject to the dispute settlement process. The goal here is to ensure that parties cannot gain a competitive advantage by purposefully violating or lowering environmental regulations to attract business.

This strikes a positive balance between economic and environmental considerations – recognizing that one need not be sacrificed for the benefit of the other.

The chapter includes new commitments designed to effectively address a number of complex global challenges, including: the illegal trade of wildlife, “illegal fishing and the subsequent depletion of fish stocks, species at risk, conservation of biological diversity, ozone-depleting substances, and marine pollution.”

The environment chapter in CUSMA also “includes a new article that identifies seven multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) and commits the three parties to implementing their respective obligations under those MEAs to which they are party.”

Crucially, this chapter also includes commitments on air quality and marine litter.  Another important outcome for Canada was that we made gender equality and women’s economic empowerment top priorities.

Our commitment to these issues is reflected in the advancement of Canada’s inclusive approach to trade. This approach seeks to ensure the benefits and opportunities that flow from international trade and investment are more widely shared.

Gender-responsive provisions are found throughout this agreement, including in chapters on labour, investment, and small and medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs.

I wanted to save until the end what I see as one of the biggest wins for Canada, both practically and symbolically: achieving significant advancements respecting the interests of Indigenous peoples in international trade.

I know this chapter has been the topic of much discussion among many of our colleagues in this Chamber.

I was pleased to see so much engagement on such an important element of this agreement.

I have been quite open, in this Chamber and beyond, about being a strong proponent of reconciliation and the fact that Canada’s most important relationship is, and must be, the one with Indigenous peoples.

Recognizing Canada’s ongoing work to renew this relationship, one of Canada’s goals was to better reflect the trade interests of Indigenous peoples in trade negotiations.

To that end, the Government of Canada undertook extensive engagement with Indigenous leaders, Indigenous representatives, Indigenous-owned businesses, and policy experts to better understand their trade interests and to seek input on priorities for the negotiations.

For the first time in a Canadian free trade agreement, CUSMA incorporates a general exception that clearly confirms that the government can adopt or maintain measures it deems necessary to fulfill its legal obligations to Indigenous peoples.

This exception is a demonstration of the commitment by the governments of all three countries to ensure that obligations in the agreement do not interfere with a country’s legal obligations toward Indigenous peoples.

As in all of Canada’s free trade agreements, our negotiators “also retained policy flexibility to ensure Canada’s ability to create or maintain programs that seek to advance the interests of Indigenous peoples and Indigenous-owned businesses, including in the areas of services, investment, and state-owned enterprises.”

Regarding government procurement, Canada will continue to benefit from the policy flexibility it has under the WTO’s Agreement on Government Procurement, for the United States, and the CPTPP, for Mexico, to continue to provide government procurement set aside for Indigenous businesses.

Additionally, outcomes on environment reflect the important role of Indigenous peoples in the long-term conservation of the environment, sustainable fisheries and forestry management, and biodiversity conservation.

The environmental provisions also take into account constitutionally-protected rights of Indigenous peoples related to the harvesting of natural resources.

The chapters on textile and apparel goods, SMEs, and investment also incorporate innovative provisions that seek to advance the participation and priorities of Indigenous peoples in trade and investment in North America.

Finally, for the first time in a Canadian free trade agreement, the preamble of CUSMA includes language that recognizes the importance of increased engagement by Indigenous peoples in trade and investment.

Colleagues, Canada did not want to renegotiate NAFTA.

While recognizing that some small adjustments could be made, we did not want to open up a trade deal from which we benefitted greatly for 25 years.

We were forced into it.

Renegotiation was all the more undesirable because of the reasons behind it in the first place: threats and protectionist, anti-NAFTA rhetoric from the American president. More than a year of challenging negotiations, and uncertainty for businesses and workers across the continent, finally led to a good deal, signed in November 2018.

Then came more than a year of delay on ratification because Congressional Democrats wanted amendments on labour standards and environmental policies.

The changes make the updated agreement signed last December that much stronger, but the extended delay led to further uncertainty and worry. Many were especially, and justly, concerned given political events in the United States.

All of these challenges – all ably handled by our team – make finally getting to this point that much more satisfying.

Our negotiating team did a superb job in difficult circumstances. The Government’s NAFTA Council also deserves credit for its work.

It included a diverse selection of prominent Canadians of all backgrounds and political stripes, including, among others, Ms Ambrose, the former interim leader of the Conservative Party; Perry Bellegarde, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations; James Moore, a former Conservative MP and minister; and Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress since 2014.

The hard work of our entire team led to a deal that has been strongly endorsed by important groups including the Council of the Federation – comprised of Canada’s 13 provincial and territorial premiers, a crucial base of support – the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

All three have urged quick ratification to not only end years of uncertainty for Canadian businesses, industry, and workers, but also so that Canadians may finally benefit from a modern, progressive trade agreement.

Honourable senators, this is a good deal for Canada and for all Canadians – indeed for all North Americans – that will ensure stable, reliable, predictable trading partnerships with our continental neighbours for years to come.

The new NAFTA is an agreement of which you can proudly vote in favour; I urge you all to do so, colleagues.

Thank you.


Peter M. Boehm, a former associate deputy minister of Foreign Affairs, is an independent Senator from Ontario.