OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada will move fast to ratify the new North American trade pact, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said Saturday one day after the United States agreed to lift tariffs for Canadian steel and aluminum.
FILE PHOTO: Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland attends a bilateral meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at Lappi Areena in Rovaniemi, Finland on May 7, 2019. Mandel Ngan / POOL via REUTERS / File Photo
U.S. President Donald Trump had imposed on the global "Section 232" bullies of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum in March 2018 in both Canada and Mexico for national security reasons, invoking the 1962 Commercial War Act from the time of the war.
The metal tariffs were a major annoyance for Canada and Mexico and had made them stop the progress of ratifying the new US-Mexico and Canada (USMCA) agreement, the trilateral trade agreement signed last year, which will replace the 25 years -The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
"We were very clear that as long as the 232 tariffs were there, it would be very difficult for us to ratify the new NAFTA, and so we did not make the law," Freeland said in an interview broadcast of CBC radio.
"Now that the big obstacle is being lifted, the full steam is ahead," she said without saying when the agreement would be presented to Parliament, which closes in June prior to an October election.
"I hope all members of the house will support this deal," she added.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on Friday that he would meet with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa on May 30 to discuss "accelerated" ratification.
While several US Democrats welcome the elimination of tariffs, some on Friday said the USMCA was not yet ready for their support.
"When it comes to the new deal, the House Democrats still have a number of major concerns about work, environment, enforcement, and access to affordable drugs. These issues still need to be addressed," said US home no and Richard Neal on Friday. .
Freeland said Canada was reaching out to American Democrats to remove their concerns.
"We've met many leading democrats to talk to them about the new NAFTA," Freeland said. "We have a good and strong conversation going on."
Despite breakthroughs on tariffs and the USMCA deal last year, Freeland said Canada was still concerned about US protectionism.
"I am still worried about American protectionism, and I think it would be naïve for anyone to believe that there is any kind of permanent security or security. The reality is that this US administration is blatantly, explicitly and proudly protectionist , "Freeland said.
Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by James Dalgleish