Mr. Speaker, I actually feel sorry for the Prime Minister. It is quite clear that nobody in his cabinet, in his caucus or in his office has the backbone to tell him the truth. The truth is that this new deal is not better than the original NAFTA.
Two and a half years ago when the Prime Minister volunteered to renegotiate NAFTA, he promised Canadians he would get a “better deal”. Let us review how we got here, because the Prime Minister's strategy was doomed from the very beginning.
In his very first discussion with the president-elect on election day, the Prime Minister told Donald Trump that he was “more than happy” to start NAFTA negotiations with no preconditions. Rather than aiming for a speedy resolution with minimal disruption as other countries like South Korea did with its agreements with the Americans, the Prime Minister sought a complete renegotiation.
The Prime Minister kicked off his negotiating strategy by highlighting aspects of his agenda, insisting that the new NAFTA be focused on a series of conditions that had nothing whatsoever to do with market access or trade.
In short order, Canada found itself on the outside looking in while Mexico and the United States hammered out a deal, and Canada would only be brought in at the end.
Instead of seeking a few minor amendments to keep disruptions to a minimum, the Prime Minister wanted to completely renegotiate the agreement. The Prime Minister introduced his negotiation strategy by focusing on his so-called progressive trade agenda and insisting that the new NAFTA follow a set of conditions that have nothing to do with trade. Canada quickly found itself on the sidelines while Mexico and the United States reached an agreement. Canada only participated at the end.
What a failure. The Prime Minister tries to call this NAFTA 2.0. Nobody is calling it that. They are calling it NAFTA 0.5.
As a result of this deal, automakers operate under new rules that constrain their content and make them less competitive, and the U.S. has set an upper limit on how many cars can come from Canada in case they impose tariffs.
Canadians will have reduced access to essential medicines and will have to pay higher prices for prescription drugs.
The U.S. now holds unprecedented influence over our future negotiations with potential new trading partners.
American farmers will have tariff-free access to a significant portion of Canada's supply-managed sector, while the United States made not a single concession in their own subsidized and protected dairy industry.
The Prime Minister just said that it was in line with previous trade deals that the Conservatives signed. That is completely false. The Liberals gave away far more. No Conservative trade deal ever agreed to place a limit on our exports to other countries around the world. Contrary to the Prime Minister's lofty promises at the outset, there is quite literally nothing about this deal that is better than the one before it.
The Liberals do like to talk about the ratchet clause. I have no doubt that there were lots of intense negotiations, lots of evenings when the team was assembled and they were all focused on the ratchet clause and were up late into the evening explaining to the Prime Minister what the ratchet clause was before they even started talking about it.
The Prime Minister's only so-called victories from the negotiations are provisions that were already in place that previous Conservative leadership had put into the original NAFTA. Certain binational dispute-settlement processes and maintained flexibility on cultural programs were already there before the negotiations started. The Liberals cannot count that as a victory if all they have done is prevented selling it away. The Americans measured their successes on NAFTA by what they gained. The Prime Minister is measuring his success on what he was not forced to give up.
Let us remember that he agreed to all of this with steel and aluminum tariffs still in place.
Once the agreement was reached, the Prime Minister stated that he would not attend the NAFTA signing ceremony unless the steel and aluminum tariffs were lifted. He was very clear about that.
The Prime Minister promised that his last hold-out and negotiating card was that he would not participate in the photo op at the signing ceremony unless the steel and aluminum tariffs were lifted. In the end, he backed down again, and there he was sitting beside Donald Trump, and steel and aluminum tariffs were still in place. This brings me to the Prime Minister's final capitulation on the deal in regard to the removal of the steel and aluminum tariffs.
Of course, Conservatives are pleased that the tariffs have ultimately been removed. I have met steelworkers, as I have in my riding, who were struggling. I know the pressures they were facing. However, this deal is far from the “pure good news” the Prime Minister has been selling it as. It is in fact not as advertised. “Don't bask in the glory of this one” is how Leo Gerard, the president of the United Steelworkers union, described it. That is exactly what the Prime Minister is doing.
The deal allows Donald Trump to reimpose steel and aluminum tariffs if there is a “meaningful” surge of imports above historic levels. Who defines what meaningful is? Donald Trump defines it. It gets worse. The deal prevents Canada from responding with retaliatory tariffs targeting key U.S. industries, the best piece of leverage we have. We even had a Liberal MP asking about this during question period, praising the strategy that strategic tariffs on unrelated industries were part of the pressure that finally got the steel and aluminum tariffs lifted. What did the Liberals do? They traded that away.
Usually Canada would respond to tariffs by imposing its own tariffs on products that strategically target important politicians or industrial sectors, such as bourbon, ketchup, yogourt and farm products. The Prime Minister also relinquished that right. Imagine an investor who wants to grow their business in Canada and who needs to make a profit over the next 10 to 20 years to recoup his investment. The Prime Minister not only gave the United States the power to limit our exports, but he also relinquished our best method of retaliation.
Why would anybody take that risk now? We know that the Prime Minister is desperate for anything he can point to as a win, so he has pulled out all the stops to celebrate this new NAFTA as a big victory. However, it is simply not as advertised, and neither is this Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister had a once-in-a-generation opportunity to negotiate a better deal and he failed. He gave Donald Trump everything the President wanted and more. However, this is the deal that we are stuck with.
After October 21, our new government will work to mitigate the damage this deal has caused. As Conservatives have done in the past, we will address things by working in a one-by-one process, addressing the issues like the lingering softwood lumber dispute this Prime Minister failed to resolve, the remaining buy American provisions, and the disjointed regulatory regimes. We will negotiate with the U.S. from a position of strength by emphasizing security and defence co-operation and by imposing safeguards to protect North American steel from Chinese dumping. We will diversify our trading partners, as we have in the past, to reduce our dependence on the U.S.
When Conservatives were in power, we negotiated free trade and investment agreements with 53 countries. We will lower taxes on Canadians and reduce regulatory burdens on businesses so that Canada becomes an attractive place for investors and there are more voices fighting for trade access to Canada and Canadian businesses can compete and win on the world stage.
In short, Conservatives will once again clean up the mess that Liberals leave them.