Canada moves to ratify USMCA ahead of Pence visit

trudeau in commons
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau receives a standing ovation during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on May 29, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Chris Wattie)

Ottawa | Reuters — The Canadian government formally presented draft legislation to ratify the new North American Trade deal to parliament on Wednesday, less than 24 hours ahead of a visit by U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau presented the bill to the House of Commons, confirming a Reuters story from Tuesday that said the legislation would officially be offered up to parliament on Wednesday.

Canada, Mexico and the United States signed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) in November 2018.

However, the deal, which would replace the existing North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), has yet to be ratified by any of the three countries.

“The new NAFTA will secure access to a trading zone that accounts for more than a quarter of the global economy,” Trudeau said. “It is now time for the members of this House to ratify it.”

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has said Canada will press ahead with its ratification plans, in tandem with the United States.

With Canadian voters set to head to the polls in October for a national election and the U.S. presidential election in 2020, time is running short.

Pence is scheduled to meet with Trudeau on Thursday to discuss USMCA ratification and other issues. It marks the first time the vice-president has travelled to Canada in an official capacity.

His visit also comes after the U.S. agreed to remove tariffs on Canadian and Mexican steel and aluminum products earlier this month, ending a year-long dispute.

Canadian officials had said Canada probably would not pass the pending trade pact until the tariffs had been lifted.

— Reporting for Reuters by Kelsey Johnson in Ottawa.

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