By Chris Fournier
For starters, don’t call it USMCA. It’s CUSMA in Canada. Bill C-4 to implement the deal was introduced Jan. 29 by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who in her previous role as foreign minister was the top negotiator for the agreement.
C-4 is likely still weeks away from becoming law, meaning it could be several months before CUSMA actually comes into force. The pact was designed to take effect on the first day of the third month after all countries have signed off. The U.S. and Mexico have given the final nod, so everyone’s waiting on Canada.
The bill is now before the standing committee on international trade, which has started hearing from witnesses. More hearings are scheduled for next week, and more witnesses could still be called. In addition, the committee will vote next week on whether to invite other committees, for instance on agriculture, to submit recommendations, with a proposed deadline of April 2.
Once the committee has heard from witnesses, the bill is considered “clause by clause,” then voted on. It goes back for a final reading in the House of Commons, and then through a similar process in the Senate. Only when it’s passed by both houses can it receive Royal Assent and become law.
In other words, there’s still a ways to go.
Although CUSMA has broad Canadian support, it’s more difficult now for Trudeau to jump through all the legislative hoops because he lost his majority in the House of Commons in elections back in October. While he’s almost certain to get enough support from opposition parties to pass the bill, that doesn’t mean everyone’s happy with it. Lawmakers have voiced dissatisfaction with provisions including a new dairy export tariff, the treatment of aluminum versus steel, and a requirement to get permission from the U.S. to sign deals with other countries.
Trudeau’s Liberals are under pressure to get CUSMA passed quickly, but opposition lawmakers say they won’t be rushed.
So any gratitude from Trump to his Canadian counterpart may have to wait a few more months.