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The Council of Canadians urges the Trudeau government to do its homework before signing the USMCA deal

OTTAWA – The United States Mexico Canada Agreement (UMSCA) is an incomplete agreement with glaring points of contention and should not be signed in its current form by the Trudeau government, the Council of Canadians says.

“This is an agreement with major implications, not a grocery list written on a napkin, “ said Maude Barlow, Honorary Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. “With lawyers still working around the clock trying to patch the agreement together, it is in no state to be signed. Furthermore, with so much political uncertainty and so many poison pills in the agreement, it is better to nail down a complete agreement rather than deal with an agreement that is still in flux.”

Barlow argues that the agreement, still politically uncertain in the U.S. with control of the U.S. Congress about to shift, will continue to undergo change, and Canada should be wary of signing the document as is. Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives have expressed a desire to boost the USMCA’s weak environment chapter, lock in the labour chapter, and break U.S. pharma’s market extensions in the agreement.

“Signing the agreement as is would be giving a blank cheque to Donald Trump,” Barlow added. “There are glaring problems with the agreement. For one, the Oshawa GM plant closing shows how fragile the deal is: autoworker jobs have been lost, and already Trump and others are threatening tariffs that go against the USMCA and NAFTA. As well, Canada has agreed to major breaches in its supply management program. This could increase our exposure to milk produced with Bovine Growth Hormone.  Canada has to fill the holes in the legislation. We don’t license BGH in Canada, but still allow milk from cows that have been injected with rBGH to be imported from the U.S. The U.S. has asked for provisions giving it a say on how Canadian dairy products are exported. This is not resolved in the present agreement, despite claims to the contrary.”

Even though some longstanding issues have been resolved in the USMCA text, such as the removal of Chapter 11, the provision that allows corporations to sue countries over their legislation if it affects investments, along with removal of energy proportionality, which guarantees Canadian energy export levels to the U.S, the agreement is still unsatisfactory.

“The agreement is one step forward, two steps backward,” says Sujata Dey, Trade Campaigner for the Council of Canadians. “We are encouraged that some of our historic demands dating back 30 years have finally been addressed. The Council of Canadians was among the first to draw attention to how Chapter 11 would harm our ability to bring in public interest policy and legislation. Now, it is gone—at least between Canada and the U.S., But in the closed door negotiations of the USMCA, corporations came up with new rights: powers for corporations to monitor and change regulations before they see the light of day in areas that could affect food safety, chemicals, environmental regulations and other matters of public safety. The agreement also supports higher drug prices because of Big Pharma protectionism and allows attacks on farmers and Crown corporations. Again, free trade is a goody bag for corporations. Why must we constantly sign agreements that empower the corporate one per cent at the expense of the rest of us?”