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No free pass for NAFTA 2.1: Trudeau must hold debate on CUSMA

Ottawa – On Sunday, January 26, 2020, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland called on opposition parties to fast-track the CUSMA deal “without undue delay.” In response, the Council of Canadians, who have scrutinized trade agreements since the early days of the 1988 Canada-U.S. Free Trade agreement, questioned if the Minister hopes to curtail democratic debate in Canada.

Legislation to enact the agreement is expected to be introduced today in the House of Commons. The Bloc Québécois and the NDP have vowed to ensure a full debate despite pressure to waive parliamentary procedure, including the 21 days required before the agreement can be ratified.

“This is incredibly disappointing. While U.S. politicians have taken a year to openly debate and modify the agreement, the Trudeau government is asking parties to simply rubber stamp the deal as amended,” said Maude Barlow, Honorary Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. “U.S. Democrats did a great service by opening and questioning the new agreement. It is our turn now. Opposition parties and the public must be given the opportunity to debate the deal.”

“Despite some positive changes, CUSMA is still an agreement designed by corporations, for corporations. We have minimized some of the most harmful parts of the agreement, but it is far from fair,” said Sujata Dey, Trade Campaigner for the Council of Canadians. “We must expect more from our trade agreements – they must be more ambitious, and work for people first.”

There are specific Canadian and progressive concerns that have not yet been addressed:

  • Canadian dairy farmers would be sacrificed to allow U.S. dairy products into our grocery stores, including milk from cows injected with genetically-engineered bovine growth hormone.

  • The provisions around environmental protections are still far too weak. There is no mention of the climate crisis, and very little about greenhouse gas pollution, when we have less than 10 years to address both before catastrophic climate change.

  • Foreign and domestic corporations would be granted greater rights to monitor and change Canadian regulations to their benefit on a wide range of public policies.

The Council of Canadians was pleased to see several of its historical demands met:

  • Investor-state provisions which allow corporations to sue states over environmental and public policy will be gone in the new agreement between Canada and the U.S.

  • The removal of energy proportionality, which mandates Canada to export quotas of energy to the U.S.

  • Canada’s cultural protections were expanded.

  • Provisions that would extend market protections for pharmaceutical drugs for Big Pharma were removed.

The Council of Canadians will launch a toolkit for supporters on the renegotiated NAFTA.


Founded in 1985, the Council of Canadians is a grassroots-based social action organization, mobilizing a network of 60 chapters across the country and over 150,000 supporters from coast-to-coast-to-coast.

Through our campaigns we advocate for clean water, fair trade, green energy, public health care, and a vibrant democracy. We educate and empower people to hold our governments accountable.

Join us and be part of a global movement working for social and environmental justice. We believe a better Canada and a fairer world are possible. Together, we turn that belief into action.

The Council of Canadians is a registered non-profit organization and does not accept money from corporations or governments.