Bill C-4, Canada–United States – Mexico Agreement Implementation Act

Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Colin Robertson
March 10, 2020


Opening Statement

I encourage you to implement the Canada-United States-Mexico-Agreement.

 It is freer trade, not free trade. It is not perfect, but much better than no deal.

CUSMA gives us a set of revised rules essential for growing and sustaining our vital continental commerce. Its dispute settlement provisions provide the stability necessary for business and investment decisions. It draws much from the original NAFTA, with updates drawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership in digital commerce, intellectual property, labour, and the environment.

CUSMA caps a decade-long effort by governments, federal and provincial, representing different political parties, to open doors to key markets across the Pacific and across the Atlantic. As this committee observed in its 2017 report free trade agreements are a tool for Canadian prosperity. Trade generates two-thirds of Canada’s GDP making us the 12th-largest export economy in the world.

The trade deals – CUSMA, CPTPP, CETA - are a tribute to our leadership in government, business and labour. They prove that we can make common cause on issues of national importance. Trade diversification is necessary, but for Canada, when it comes to trade and security, it will always be the United States and then the rest.

Now we need to make our trade deals work for us.  

First, there is unfinished business when it comes to regulation, infrastructure and internal trade.

Initiatives launched by the Harper and Obama governments, and continued by the Trudeau and Trump governments around regulatory co-operation and Beyond the Border action plans are buried within our bureaucracies. Progress requires political oversight and I encourage this committee to hold hearings to identify the roadblocks and keep governments’ noses to the grindstone.

U.S. Democrats and the Trump administration have agreed to a US$2-trillion infrastructure plan (although there is no agreement on how to pay for it). Since there is no procurement provision in the new trade agreement, Canada needs to link into this initiative. To get best value for our citizens, premiers and governors need to work out the kind of reciprocity deal that the U.S. and Canada achieved in 2010.

Getting our goods to market means improvements to our ports, pipelines and grids, rail and roads. Canada has an infrastructure program, but is it moving fast enough? This should be an area of close collaboration by all levels of government. Again, parliamentary oversight of the progress is essential.

Free trade within Canada remains the unfinished business of Confederation, and I applaud and underline the recommendations of the Senate committee for banking, trade and commerce 2016 report ‘Tear Down these Walls’.

Second, the all-Canada effort reminding Americans that our trade partnership is mutually beneficial must become a permanent campaign. American protectionism is older than the republic. It will continue no matter who is president.

While we can’t vote or make donations to campaigns, we can illustrate by district and by state the jobs created by Canadian trade and investment. I encourage you to use your travel authority to go to Washington and meet your counterparts. I also encourage you to adjust the rules for travel throughout the United States.

This must be a permanent campaign encompassing all sectors including our cultural industries.  I applaud this committee’s recent report on making cultural diplomacy the main stage of Canadian foreign policy, and I would say that it starts with our North American market. 

Third, we need to know more about North America, especially the United States.

Given our propinquity and innate understanding of the United States, why aren't we turning this to our advantage? How many serious centers or research chairs focussing on the US and our continental trade are there in Canada? You will be disappointed in the answer.

Canada's influence in the world is measured to a large extent by our understanding of the United States. By using our knowledge and relationships with Americans, our ability to leverage our influence in Washington and state capitals makes us a more desirable partner with the rest of the world. They also have to do business with our often complicated neighbour.

In conclusion, I encourage you to pass CUSMA while taking the initiatives that will grow our commerce.

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