On July 1, 2020, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), signed on January 29, 2020 by the U.S. and on March 13th for Canada, came into force. While the agreement is expected to keep North America the most competitive region in the world, the leaders, particularly in the U.S. and Canada, have taken different reactions to its implementation.
The U.S. seems to be the most content and has made the most publicized comments since the USMCA went into effect. According to President Trump, the USMCA “replaces the failed, outdated NAFTA and brings our trade relationship with Canada and Mexico into the 21st century” and “marks the beginning of a historic new chapter for North American trade”. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP),the USMCA replaces NAFTA and is said to deliver more efficient trade, stronger enforcement and more economic opportunities for North America, including creation of up to 589,000 new American jobs, better market access for American agriculture and manufacturing exports, and up to $34 billion in new investment in the U.S. auto industry.
According to his administration, President Trumpcontinues to deliver for American workers and families. While the USMCA may provide some economic relief for the country by creating 589,000 jobs, this number is a far cry from the devastating 30 million jobs that have been lost by COVID-19 and the record of 132,000 deaths. Perhaps there should be more focus and news on these statistics, rather than a “would be” project.
On the Canadian front, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned that he may skip the USMCA summit in Washington on July 8th-9th with President Trump and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. For Prime Minister Trudeau, concern over the COVID-19 pandemic, especially Canada’s ability to flatten the curve for the past 8 weeks, while the U.S. still has record new cases in many states is one factor affecting his decision. As of June 2, Canada had 104,772 recorded coronavirus cases, with 8,642 deaths. In addition, the Trump administration’s threats of tariffsare another factor. Prime Minister Trudeau stated “we’re obviously concerned about the proposed issue of tariffs on aluminum and steel that the Americans have floated recently. We’re also concerned about the health situation and the coronavirus reality that is still hitting all three of our countries”. There are reports that the U.S. is pressuring Canada to impose quotas on its aluminum exports or risk a 10% tariff.
In fact, the Canadian Parliament rushed through ratification of the new USMCA trade pact on March 13thbefore Parliament shut down for five weeks to help stop the spread of the coronavirus in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Canada was the last of the three signatories to formally adopt the pact, prompting congratulations from the United States and Mexico.
While the implementation of USMCA may bring the economic relief needed from the struggles North America is facing as a whole due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it appears that Canada is focusing its attention to the health and safety of Canadians first, while the U.S., who has already re-opened most of the country, is looking to move forward and use the USMCA to create support trade and commerce.