Tag Archives: Canada

Supporters of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement have been pushing for some time to see a summer vote on the deal. They’d like Congress to ratify the deal before they head off on their August recess. However, House Democrats say they’re not in a hurry to hold a vote.

That pre-recess legislative window is getting closer to slamming shut. Politico says Democratic lawmakers have said for some time that a summer deadline to pass the agreement wasn’t realistic. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s nine-member working group is holding meetings with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to address potential changes to the agreement.

As a result, some aides think that there may still be a chance to get the deal ratified in 2019. One aide tells Politico that a September vote is possible, depending on how far Lighthizer can or is willing to go to address Democrat concerns on enforcement, labor, environment, and drug pricing provisions in the deal. Many legislators, officials, and industry observers in Washington agree that once the presidential election year begins, the chances of ratifying USMCA will plummet.

Evan Fraser, Professor, Director of the Arrell Food Institute and Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Global Food Security, University of Guelph

Marie-Claude Bibeau, Canada’s agriculture and agrifood minister, recently announced that, after years of consultations, Canada finally has a national food policy.

Developing the policy had been one of the ministry’s stated commitments since 2015, when Justin Trudeau’s cabinet was first sworn in, and in the final days of the government’s mandate in 2019, it delivered on this important promise.

The food policy itself notes that Canadian foods lead the world in terms of quality and safety, and that our food sector is one of Canada’s economic powerhouses, accounting for an eighth of Canadian jobs.

But problems exist. Too much of our population cannot access healthy food on a reliable basis, while $50 billion of food, or 11 million metric tonnes, is wasted annually in our country.

The food policy, therefore, aims to bolster the economic impact of the agri-food sector while tackling issues like waste and childhood hunger.

Building on a consultation with approximately 45,000 Canadians through a series of regional town halls, a major summit, and an online survey, the government has decided to invest $134 million in this area.

Included is a local food infrastructure fund worth $50 million that will support community-led projects to drive access to safe, culturally diverse and healthy food.

There will also be a campaign to increase both pride and awareness in Canadian food. And there will be initiatives to tackle food insecurity in Northern and isolated communities, and a “challenge fund” that will fund strategies to reduce food waste. Overall, this is an impressive list of commitments, and while the funding allocated to this project is modest (and amounts to just $4 per Canadian), this represents an important moment for the country.

New council

A centrepiece of the policy is a new Canadian Food Policy Advisory Council. The council will bring together expertise from beyond government and act to inform future developments regarding food and food policy.

The creation of this council is particularly important. For too long, food has fallen between ministerial portfolios. This is because food-related issues are too varied to be encompassed by any single minister’s mandate.

For instance, healthy food is an obviously component of the minister of health’s mandate. But so too is food a function of Agriculture and Agri-food Canada.

Food, and the food industry, are intrinsic to Canada’s economic development and so touch on trade policy. And with the rapid development of novel digital agri-food technologies, ministers responsible for innovation, science and technology are also keenly interested in food.

Until now, however, there has been no single place for food-related policies to be debated, contentious issues discussed and evidence-based advice provided to government. As a result, this new advisory council, which will bring together stakeholders and experts, is critical to ensuring that food policy receives the attention it deserves in the long term.

Casting a wide net

It’s particularly noteworthy that the council will include members from industry, health professionals, academics, nonprofit organizations and Indigenous groups, and will be open to provincial and territorial participation.

While populating this council will be difficult, stakeholders from across the political spectrum have lauded the government for this announcement. The executive director of Food Secure Canada, Gisèle Yasmeen, welcomed the announcement, noting:

“We are pleased that a Council drawn from across non-profit organizations, academia, health professionals, Indigenous organizations and agriculture and food industries will help to steer the implementation of the policy.”

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture, an organization formed in 1935 to provide a unified voice on behalf of all Canadian farmers, was similar in its praise. Mary Robinson, the president of the CFA, noted that food is affected by a variety of factors that are rarely in the spotlight and that the food policy can help “…organize this puzzle and help fit the pieces together.”

Meanwhile, Michael McCain, CEO of Maple Leaf Foods and the honorary chair of the Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Security, noted:

“The commitments reflected in the Food Policy for Canada will play an important role in making nutritious, sustainably produced food accessible for all Canadians. We are greatly encouraged that the policy includes the establishment of a Food Policy Advisory Council that recognizes the need for collaboration across industry, civil society and government to implement the vision and goals of the policy.”

While it remains to be seen exactly how the food policy, and the council, will operate, the announcement is a tremendously important step in ensuring that food — intrinsic to our economic, environmental, social and biological health — is given the attention it deserves.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA)  recently launched a media campaign urging Congress to pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The campaign features personal stories from cattle and beef producers across the country who want Congress to ratify the USMCA as quickly as possible.

“The USMCA keeps the highly successful framework for U.S. beef trade in place and preserves access to two of our largest export markets,” said NCBA President Jennifer Houston. “Cattle producers need certainty with Canada and Mexico so that we can continue to build on 25 years of duty-free, unrestricted trade in North America.”

Unrestricted, duty-free trade under USMCA will continue to allow U.S. cattle and beef producers to capitalize on growing demand in lucrative markets in Canada, Mexico, and around the world. USMCA maintains science-based trade standards while rejecting failed policies of the past, like mandatory country-of-origin labeling.

The NCBA campaign will center around a new USMCA website, policy.nbca.org/usmca. Visitors to the site can click on a dynamic map to pull up state data, producer profiles, and news articles related to USMCA. The map will be updated weekly with new content and profiles.

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s Senate voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to ratify a new free trade agreement with the United States and Canada, making it the first of the three countries to gain legislative approval.

Mexico’s upper chamber voted 114 to four with three abstentions in favor of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA. It will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, which U.S. President Donald Trump had threatened to withdraw the United States from if Washington did not get a better deal.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said in a recorded message that the vote was “very good news.”

“It means foreign investment in Mexico, it means jobs in Mexico, it means guaranteeing trade of the merchandise that we produce in the United States,” he said.

The treaty does not need to be approved by Mexico’s lower house. It is still awaiting consideration by lawmakers in the United States and Canada, however.

“Congratulations to President Lopez Obrador — Mexico voted to ratify the USMCA today by a huge margin. Time for Congress to do the same here!” Trump tweeted.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in a statement applauded Mexico’s ratification as “a crucial step forward.”

Ratification of the deal still faces some opposition in the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives.

The United States is by far Mexico’s biggest export market and its easy passage through the legislature had been expected. The approval came after Trump threatened to impose tariffs on all Mexican goods if López Obrador didn’t reduce the flow of U.S.-bound illegal immigration from Central America, a threat that was later suspended.

The USMCA was hammered out last year by delegations representing then-President Enrique Peña Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, and then-President-elect López Obrador, of the left-leaning Morena, ensuring that both the outgoing and the incoming administrations were on board. López Obrador took office Dec. 1, a day after the agreement was signed.

Mexican lawmakers had already executed a series of labor reforms that the U.S. had demanded.

Mexico’s economy ministry said that with Senate approval “Mexico sends a clear message in favor of an open economy and of deepening its economic integration in the region.”

Mexico’s peso strengthened moderately against the dollar to 19.03 Wednesday, though the main factor was the U.S. Federal Reserve signaling that it was prepared to cut interest rates if needed to protect the U.S. economy, according to Gabriela Siller, economic analysis director at Banco BASE.

The United States buys about 80% of Mexican exports, some $358 billion worth last year. In the first quarter of 2019 the two countries did $203 billion in two-way trade, making Mexico the United States’ No. 1 commercial partner for the first time, ahead of Canada and China, according to the Mexican Economy Department.

Sen. Ricardo Monreal, leader of the governing party in the Senate, said the vote was “an important step to diminish the existing uncertainty for North American trade.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau heads to Washington, D.C. this week, as part of an effort to ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The trade deal has the least path of resistance in Mexico, where lawmakers are expected to ratify the agreement this month.

The trade deal also faces a quick route to passage in Canada, leaving passage in the U.S. the toughest battle to fully ratify the agreement. Canada expects final consideration of the agreement before September. Trudeau is scheduled to meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, along with a planned meeting Thursday with President Donald Trump, according to Reuters.

Trump, along with agriculture groups, have pushed for quick passage of the agreement. However, House Democrats want more time to review the agreement, pressing for potential changes. The agreement must first pass the U.S. House before the Senate can consider the agreement. Nearly 1,000 agriculture groups together last week urged Congress and the Trump administration to finish the agreement.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump are to discuss continental trade and their shared challenges with China in a meeting in Washington next week.

The Prime Minister’s Office says the leaders will use next Thursday’s meeting to talk about the ratification of the new North American trade agreement and outstanding trade disputes between Canada and the United States.

The meeting will also give Trudeau and Trump an opportunity to discuss strategy ahead of the G20 leaders’ summit in Japan at the end of the month, which will give them face time with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Trudeau and Trump will also talk about two Canadians detained in China for the last six months.

In December, China detained Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor in apparent retaliation for the RCMP’s arrest of a Chinese high-tech executive on a U.S. extradition warrant.

Canada is caught between its two biggest trading partners on that issue, with Trudeau insisting Canada has to follow the rule of law but having no luck pressing the case with China’s leaders.

Besides the Kovrig and Spavor cases, China has obstructed shipments of Canadian agriculture products such as canola and pork, claiming that they’re ridden with pests or have labelling problems. On Thursday the government promised that Export Development Canada will put up $150 million in additional insurance backing for canola farmers looking to sell in new markets.

U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence has said Trump will press Xi to release Kovrig and Spavor and will link the plight of the two Canadians to broader trade talks between Washington and Beijing. Global Affairs Canada says Spavor received his eighth consular visit from Canadian diplomats on Thursday, one day after Kovrig’s latest visit.

While Trudeau and Trump have crossed paths at various international events in the last year, and had several telephone conversations, this will be their first substantive meeting since the U.S. president insulted the prime minister a little over a year ago after departing the G7 in Quebec.

The two leaders have continued to engage because both governments needed to wrestle a conclusion out of the often acrimonious renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump forced on Canada and Mexico.

Now, with the recent removal of U.S. tariffs on Canadian and Mexican steel and aluminum imports, there is renewed momentum to ratify the new trade pact.

Mexico’s Senate is expected to give its final legal approval to the new deal next week, but a delicate political dance continues between Ottawa and Washington over ratification. Trudeau has tabled the government’s ratification bill and it is winding its way through Parliament — slowly — ahead of next week’s adjournment of the House of Commons.

Canadian government sources have said the House could be recalled after its summer recess, in a last session before the October federal election, to deal with ratifying the new NAFTA if the U.S. Congress doesn’t deal with the matter promptly. As much as the government wants to move “in tandem” with the U.S. toward final approval of the new agreement, it doesn’t want to get too far ahead.

Some Democrats in the House of Representatives are less enthusiastic about the new deal, and some would like to deny Trump a trade victory. Some Democrats have said they want to see stronger provisions on labour and environmental standards in Mexico but that country’s lawmakers have approved a new labour-reform law that has won plaudits in Ottawa and among many other lawmakers in Washington.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland concluded a two-day visit to Washington on Thursday, meeting two leading Republican and Democratic senators. A day earlier, Freeland discussed trade with U.S. trade czar Robert Lighthizer and China with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.