“We want to know what we’re voting on,” Beatty said during a Washington International Trade Association (WITA) conference. “If we’re voting on something that is going to be changed, what’s the point of doing that? We need to know what the effect of the agreement is.”
At least one Democrat lawmaker, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, has called for USMCA negotiations to be reopened to strengthen labor provisions, and other key congressional Democrats have indicated they will tightly scrutinize the agreement and implementation legislation to ensure the enforceability of certain provisions, including those pertaining to labor and the environment.
The USMCA brought NAFTA’s labor and environment texts into the core of the North American trade pact.
Beatty said Canada faced challenges regarding the reopening of a trade negotiation during the process of EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) ratification, during which “all sorts” of different interest groups started adding new conditions for the approval of the pact.
“When you start picking at the thread to the fabric, it starts to unravel,” he said. “Other people start putting their own demands on the table, and other problems come up. I think, in this particular instance, we should take the money and run.”
While USMCA is “far from perfect,” ratification is worthwhile and will provide certainty to businesses, Beatty added.
Beatty also said he didn’t expect any difficulties for USMCA’s passage through Canadian Parliament, adding that both conservatives and liberals in the country strongly favor the agreement, and that the pact doesn’t figure to be a major issue during the country’s next federal election, set for Oct. 21.
Speaking during the same panel, Kenneth Smith Ramos, former lead USMCA negotiator for Mexico, also cautioned that reopening the pact could unnecessarily complicate the approval process, and he added that the deal includes “the most advanced labor chapter” in any free trade agreement.
Miriam Sapiro, who worked as deputy U.S. trade representative and acting U.S. trade representative during the Obama administration, said it would help the United States’ USMCA approval process if Canada and Mexico pass the agreement first, as that would put pressure on the U.S. Congress to consider implementing legislation in a timely fashion.
“I think Mexico’s willing to move more quickly,” said Sapiro, currently vice chairman of public affairs for Sard Verbinnen & Co., a strategic corporate and financial communications firm. “At least the new ambassador [of Mexico to the U.S. Martha Barcena Coqui] signaled that when she spoke recently, so maybe that will provide the kind of fire that we need to light if we’re going to have any chance of getting this through.”
She added that it would be a “huge deal” if USMCA totally advances through all three countries’ approval processes this year.