Canada joined the United States and Mexico in heralding a new era of North American prosperity on Tuesday as they formally agreed to changes to the new continental free trade deal first reached last year.
The amended deal comes after years intense, at times bitter, negotiations to update the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement.
“This has been a long, arduous and at times fraught negotiation,” said Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who was in Mexico City for the elaborate signing ceremony.
U.S. trade czar Robert Lighthizer and Mexican undersecretary for North America Jesus Seade signed the document beside her.
“All of us together have finally accomplished what we set out to do at the very outset: a win-win-win agreement which will provide stability for workers in all three of our countries for many years to come,” Freeland said.
The three countries originally signed the new NAFTA, known formally as the U-S-Mexico-Canada Agreement, in November 2018 but it still had to be ratified by each national government. Mexico ratified the original deal in June, while the Canadian government said it would ratify the agreement at the same time as the United States.
Democrats were also upset with provisions around intellectual-property rules on pharmaceuticals and settling disputes, all of which led to fresh negotiations to amend the deal by tightening up some areas of the proposed agreement and loosening others.
The revised deal was immediately met with both applause and anger from various Canadian business associations, with some blasting the amendments as harmful to their industries and others welcoming the changes and the agreement’s imminent ratification by all three countries.
“We look forward to reviewing the text in detail, but after years of uncertainty it appears a modernized and enhanced North American trade agreement is finally ready to go before Parliament,” said Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada.
There had been concerns the agreement would not be approved before Congress disperses until 2020 and its focus shifts to next fall’s presidential election. -CINEWS