Losing Ground on Trade

On Sunday September 30, Canada and the United States agreed on the terms of a new trade deal – The U.S. – Mexico – Canada Agreement (USMCA). This agreement will replace the former North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Two years ago, Justin Trudeau stated that he was “more than happy” to renegotiate NAFTA with incoming President Donald Trump in order to strengthen and improve the agreement. The problem we are left with is that this new agreement is actually less beneficial to Canada than NAFTA. There is virtually nothing in USMCA that puts Canada in a better position.

In this new agreement, Justin Trudeau backed down on supply management, giving Donald Trump exactly what he wanted: More market share for American exporters and less business for Canadians. Not only did he give up concessions on dairy to Trump, but he has left our dairy farmers with continued uncertainty as the United States will continue to subsidize their own dairy industry, leaving our dairy producers at a disadvantage.

Justin Trudeau also backed down on automotives, giving Donald Trump exactly what he wanted: limits on how many cars Canada can export to the United States which all but precludes expansion of our Canadian auto industry.

He also backed down on pharmaceuticals, again giving Donald Trump exactly what he wanted: Higher prices and bigger profits for American drug companies. These companies will now be able to sell pharmaceuticals in Canada for 10 years (2 extra years) before facing generic competition.

For all of these concessions to Donald Trump, Justin Trudeau was unable to win anything significant in return. Buy American provisions remain, shutting out Canadian companies from bidding on American government contracts. Tariffs remain on steel, aluminum, and softwood lumber – with no timeline or plan for lifting them. Why were these issues not addressed in our trade negotiations?

And perhaps what is most concerning for the long term is that Justin Trudeau has agreed that any other trade deals our country considers embarking on with other countries will now be vetted by the United States. Think about the implications of that for a moment. Agreeing to give up some of our sovereignty to the United States, under President Donald Trump or any other President, must have crossed his mind as being a bad idea. Yet here we are.

Conservatives on the other hand, have a strong record of defending Canada’s interests in trade agreements including NAFTA, CETA, and the TPP. We successfully negotiated dozens of trade deals from a proactive position.

Canada’s Conservatives, like all Canadians, want the best deal for families, workers, and businesses. We are the party of free trade and we understand the importance of reliable access to markets for Canadian businesses and workers. We will continue to hold Justin Trudeau to account for his many concessions to Donald Trump and his failure to win any back for Canadians.

While I recognize the importance of having a North American trade deal, Justin Trudeau promised Canadians that he would negotiate a good deal. Donald Trump certainly seems pleased with the “good deal” Canada has negotiated.

Sadly, the only way Canadians can consider this agreement as a win for Canada is through the lens of lowered expectations. Hopefully that is not the new standard in which Canadians are forced to judge our future international trade negotiations.