Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland speaks to media following a cabinet meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Canada still enjoying old NAFTA benefits: Freeland

Canadian ratification deadline in June is looming because Parliament will break then

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canada has kept its privileged access to the U.S. market even as the new North American trade deal hangs in the balance.

That was Canada’s core goal all along as it sat down with the United States and Mexico to renegotiate NAFTA in August 2017, she said Tuesday.

The leaders of all three countries signed the deal last fall but its formal ratification remains uncertain amid political jockeying in and between the U.S. and Mexico. Freeland is hinting the government isn’t worried about the way forward, saying Canadians can continue to enjoy the benefits of the existing 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, which remains in place.

That wasn’t the case with recently completed free-trade deals with the European Union and 10 Pacific Rim countries because they had to be ratified before Canadians could enjoy access, she said.

“NAFTA is an entirely different situation,” she said after a Tuesday cabinet meeting on Parliament Hill. “The Canadian objective from the outset has been to maintain Canada’s privileged access to the U.S. market, which is so valuable to all Canadians. We have been quite willing to consider modernizations, improvements, but our core objective has always been to keep that access in place.”

READ MORE: New UMSCA trade deal getting a boost from Trump, business groups

Mexican lawmakers recently told The Canadian Press they’re OK with the status quo if the new trade pact can’t be ratified.

The apparent laissez-faire positions of Canada and Mexico ignore one other fact: that President Donald Trump could serve a six-month notice he’s pulling out of NAFTA.

Freeland is to appear before the Senate foreign affairs and trade committee later Tuesday.

A Canadian ratification deadline in June is looming because Parliament will break then and won’t reconvene until after the October federal election.

READ MORE: Liberals promise billions for dairy, chicken farmers affected by trade deals

Some leading U.S. Democrats in Congress say they won’t approve the new trade agreement unless Mexico implements tougher labour standards that elevate the rights of workers and their unions.

Freeland reiterated that U.S. tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum, officially imposed on national-security grounds when negotiations on the new treaty were at a delicate point,, are “absurd” and “illegal” but she stopped short of saying that lifting them would be a precondition to the government ratifying the new continental trade deal.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

B.C. Ferries vessel breaks down right before long weekend

Horseshoe Bay-Langdale route impacted most, two Departure Bay sailings cancelled

Nanaimo man gets jail time for posting explicit photos of ex-girlfriends

Man’s name cannot be revealed to protect victims’ identities

Olympic skier from Nanaimo suing Alpine Canada after coach’s sex offences

Bertrand Charest was convicted in 2017 on 37 charges

Learn to build a telescope with Nanaimo Astronomy Society

Learn how to build or improve a telescope at the society’s meeting Thursday, June 27

Nanaimo police dog’s bark puts a stop to chainsaw theft

Suspect decides bite might be worse than bark when confronted by RCMP service dog Monday

SUV rolls over in crash in north Nanaimo

Accident happened on Rutherford Road on Wednesday afternoon

Readers vote for Nanaimo’s Best of the City

Complete results of the Nanaimo News Bulletin’s 2019 survey

Air North starts up non-stop flights from Nanaimo to Kelowna

Company running charter flights to Watson Lake, Yukon, including stops in Kelowna and Prince George

Nanaimo RCMP issue warning about counterfeit $100 bills

Fake $100 bill successfully passed at pharmacy on Bowen Road this month

Man appealing conviction for drive-by shooting attempt in Nanaimo

Armaan Singh Chandi was sentenced to nine years in jail in B.C. Supreme Court last month

Pirates hang on to beat neighbouring Royals

Nanaimo beats Parksville 2-0 in B.C. Premier Baseball League action

Pedestrian struck by vehicle in Stz’uminus dies from injuries

A male pedestrian was struck in the early morning of June 25

Foot ferry service in Nanaimo won’t happen this summer

Island Ferries says it still needs to secure funding

Every situation is different, jurors hear at coroners inquest into Oak Bay teen’s overdose death

Pediatrician says involuntary treatment necessary following overdose, opioid use

Most Read