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Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Freeland speaking notes for the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement press conference

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PM Trudeau and Minister Freeland address the media


Hello and welcome. Thank you all for being here.

A year and a half ago, with rising questions about the future of NAFTA, I was asked how we’d respond.

My answer was that we’d respond as Canadians always have, in uncertain times.

We’d be constructive and reasonable. But we’d also be firm.

We’d protect our interests and promote our values.

We’d show determination - and also flexibility.

And we would remain united.

And ultimately, we’d emerge stronger.

And that is exactly what we did. Last night, Canada reached an agreement-in-principle with the United States and Mexico, on a modernized and updated North American Free Trade Agreement – it will now be called the USMCA, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

It’s an agreement that, when enacted, will be good for Canadian workers. Good for Canadian business. And good for Canadian families. It’s an agreement that removes uncertainty for our manufacturers and investors, and improves labour rights for all North Americans.

It’s an agreement that will be profoundly beneficial for our economy, for Canadian families, and for the middle class. When we began the work of updating NAFTA, we kept our focus on what really matters. The new agreement would need to preserve jobs, foster growth, expand the middle class, and support people working hard to join the middle class.

It also needed to be fair. Which meant that it would have to preserve the fundamental principle of the original agreement, which is that when your trading partner is ten times your size, you need rules. You need a level playing field.

Unless the new agreement achieved those objectives, we wouldn’t sign it.

Simply put, the new agreement had to be good for Canada and for Canadians.

Because trade deals do not succeed based on data points or statistics. They’re measured by how they help improve people’s lives.

By whether they protect people’s jobs, and create new ones.

By the opportunities of our small and medium sized businesses to access the North American market.

By whether they create greater opportunity for those who work hard. And whether those opportunities are fairly and broadly shared.

Now, modernizing NAFTA was no easy feat. Some said it was impossible to do: That we should take whatever we could get, and be grateful for it.

We didn’t do that. We insisted on getting a good deal – not just any deal.

Like every important negotiation, this has been an exercise in compromise – And some were more difficult than others at times.

We never expected this would be easy. It hasn’t been.

But today is a good day for Canada.

We got here because we kept our focus on creating opportunity and growing the middle class. While preserving the most important parts of the existing NAFTA. Those elements that make it good for business, and fair for Canadians.

And, I want to stress: Canada got here because we kept our focus and our collective resolve. Even when some were recommending we capitulate.

A word of caution: we’re not yet at the finish line. This agreement still needs to be ratified in Mexico, in the United States, and in Canada.

But what I can say is that free and fair trade in North America – a trading zone that accounts for more than a quarter of the world’s economy, with just seven per cent of its population – is in a much more stable place than it was yesterday. We now have a path forward.

This is an extraordinarily complex agreement, just as the original NAFTA was. But let me sum up what this means.

It means that, when this agreement is enacted, NAFTA will be preserved, updated, modernized, and stabilized for the 21st century –as we set out to do.

It means Canadian workers and their families will enjoy greater opportunities than ever before.

And more prosperity means more resources to invest in things like housing, health care, and a more secure retirement for our seniors.

Alongside our new European and trans-Pacific trade agreements, today, we are securing a higher standard of living, long into the future, for the people of Canada.

Before I ask Minister Freeland to get into some of the details of the agreement, I want to express my gratitude.

We are very grateful to all the people, from every corner of the country, from all walks of life, from all political points of view, who joined us in this effort, who supported and sustained it through the past 13 months.

Especially and particularly, I have to thank every Canadian, and there were thousands of them, who wrote me letters and emails, and stopped me on the street to say, “Keep at it. Stay strong. We’re with you.”

I want to thank the Premiers. Leaders from industry and labour. Brian Mulroney and his original NAFTA negotiating team, and other former prime ministers. Members of our NAFTA council. Thank you all for your support, your advice, and your patriotism.

Minister Freeland: Chrystia. For your tireless, relentless, efforts; for your dedication, your hard work, not only in the past five weeks but in the past 19 months: Thank you, and thank you to your family as well. I know, like so many of our families, Graham, Natalka, Halina, and Ivan missed you a bit, but knew you were doing extraordinarily important work. We owe you all a debt of gratitude. No minister in a generation has been given a more difficult task than this one. And you delivered.

Chief Negotiator Steve Verheul who is here in the room with us. Thank you Steve, for being so extraordinary, so focused, and such a great Canadian. Everything you did, every step of the way, got us to this point. And David MacNaughton, in Washington, on the front lines of the conversations with Congress, with the administration, with stakeholders in the United States, David, you have been an extraordinary resource, friend, and a valuable asset to all Canadians as we’ve moved forward on this together.

I also want to thank Ambassador Bob Lighthizer. He is a tough, principled negotiator – a veteran of forty years of trade agreements. He also understands and appreciates Canada. It’s fair to say that this would not have come together without him. Likewise Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo, of Mexico – muchas gracias, mi amigo.

I’d like now to turn it over to Chrystia. Minister Freeland. (Minister Freeland takes the podium).

Thank you very much, Prime Minister, and thank you for your resolve, and your leadership, and your patriotism. They have been at the heart of our work, and the foundation of everything. I’m really grateful. And thank you, everyone, for being here.

I want to start by echoing the Prime Minister’s sentiment and his thanks to everyone, above all, our outstanding trade negotiators. They are amazing, and I am very grateful, very, very grateful. And I also want to thank the trade negotiators from the other two countries, this has really been 24/7 for a lot of people, for a long time. People have gone above and beyond the call of duty, and I’m really, really grateful.

I said when we began that there would be moments of drama, and there have been.

Through it all, Ambassador Lighthizer has been a professional, reliable, and trustworthy counterpart. And I can say, after the past few weeks of very intense negotiations, what we called our continuous negotiation, he is someone I consider a friend. Thank you, Bob.

Mexico’s Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo has likewise been a valued and respected counterpart, and I consider him to be a friend too. Muchas gracias, Ildefonso.

So, here’s what today’s agreement will achieve.

First and primarily, it preserves free trade across the North American continent, and market access in a $25 trillion open market of 470 million people. A market that has tripled in size since the creation of NAFTA in 1993.

And it does this while providing insurance against the spectre of auto tariffs that were threatening our economy and thousands of good, well-paying jobs – on both sides of the border.

This in itself is a victory for Canadians.

This agreement maintains tariff-free access to the majority of Canadian exports to U.S. markets.

That doesn’t mean we won’t continue to diversify to other markets around the world. We certainly will. But it will make us secure in our key North American market, while we continue to broaden our access to markets in other countries.

This agreement is good for hundreds of thousands of Canadian workers. Not only does it preserve essential cross-border supply chains, but it significantly improves wages and rights for Mexican workers. This will concretely level the playing field for auto workers in cities like Windsor and Oshawa. It helps guarantee their future.

The agreement preserves the Canadian cultural exception, that was demanded by Canada, especially in the digital world. That protects our cultural industries and more than 650,000 jobs across Canada. It preserves our unique, bilingual identity, as Canadians.

Allow me to cite one of my favourite Prime Ministers, Louis St. Laurent, who said in 1953, speaking of America: “We know it is not your wish to have on your border a mere replica of your own country, but rather a self-respecting community faithful to its own ways. We are thus better neighbours, because self-respect is the key to respect for others.”

I think he put that very well.

And there’s something that is extremely important and of which I think we can all be particularly proud: Today’s agreement fully upholds the impartial dispute resolution of Chapter 19 of the original NAFTA. When there’s a disagreement over trade, it goes to an independent, bi-national panel. And that panel gets to decide.

Without Chapter 19, many of you will remember, there would have been no NAFTA in the first place.

And Canada has relied on this clause time and time again, in the softwood lumber dispute for example, to guarantee fairness for Canadian workers.

The Prime Minister said this earlier, and I want to underscore what he said: It’s about maintaining trade based on rules. The United States is ten times our size. It was absolutely critical that the system of settling disagreements be maintained.

Canadian dairy farmers, their families, and their communities can count on the full support of our government. It hasn't changed since the beginning of the negotiations. And I can confirm this. This agreement preserves and maintains supply management.

While it introduces some liberalization of market access, as in previous agreements in CETA and CPTPP, the future of supply management itself is not in doubt.

To mitigate the impact of these changes, the government has promised to fully and fairly compensate producers for any loss of market share – and work with them to further strengthen their industry.

In addition, flowing from our consultations with dairy farmers, we intend to strike a new working group with stakeholders in the industry, to develop a strategy that ensures Canada will maintain a robust dairy industry, now and into the future.

The original NAFTA contained a clause that eroded Canada’s sovereign control over our energy resources, known as the proportionality clause. That‘s now gone. We also fought for, and won, administrative changes that will save the oil patch more than $60 million a year in burdensome fees and costs.

The investor-state-dispute resolution system that has allowed companies to sue the Canadian government is also gone between Canada and the United States. Known as ISDS, it has cost Canadian taxpayers more than $300 million in penalties and legal fees. ISDS elevates the rights of corporations over those of sovereign governments. In removing it, we have strengthened our government’s right to regulate in the public interest, to protect public health and the environment, for example.

There’s a new, enforceable environment chapter that upholds air quality, and fights marine pollution.

And pivotally, we have reached an agreement on cars and car parts, inspired by creative Canadian ideas, which we put forward in our talks in Montreal, back in January. That was a key turning point in this negotiation, which made subsequent progress possible. Since the Auto Pact, Canada has been an integral and essential part of a North American auto industry, with its highly integrated supply chains. We fought for that, and we have preserved it and created opportunities for growth.

Let me turn it over to the Prime Minister. (Prime Minister Trudeau takes the podium)

Thank you Chrystia.

I am looking forward to signing this agreement with Presidents Trump and Peña Nieto. And I really would like to stress this point: This will be good for workers in all three of our countries.

I have met and spoken with many fine, hard-working Canadians on shop floors across this country, over the past months. To them I say, we heard you.

Indeed, when the enforceable labour provisions in this agreement are enacted, they will represent the most important progressive reform for North American workers in a generation.

As a Quebecer, I know how essential the cultural exception is for preserving our identity and continuing to showcase our culture.

There are, of course, many other aspects to this deal, which is complex. Our team has a lot of work to do yet. And there are no guarantees.

Canada does not control what happens in the United States Congress and Mexican Senate.

The past year has been marked by considerable uncertainty. And, frankly, some of that uncertainty remains.

That being said, today’s announcement is an important step forward. It sets out a clear pathway to a new era of economic stability and prosperity for North America, and the millions of people who depend on a thriving economy to provide for their families and ensure a better future for their children.

With these negotiations behind us, we can move ahead with confidence that our economy is secure, even as we expand our trade to markets around the world.

Along with CETA, our European trade deal, the CPTPP, our trans-Pacific accord, and Canada’s other trade agreements, Canadians now benefit from free trade with 1.5 billion consumers around the world, representing two-thirds of the global economy. This is a very good position to be in.

Add to this the fact that Canada is the only G7 country that has free trade agreements with every other G7 country. We will therefore continue to be extremely well placed for our businesses to reach new markets, hire new workers, and provide ever-greater opportunities for Canadians.

From Singapore to Kiev, from the northernmost point of the Americas to the southernmost, we are part of a global free trade network, governed by rules, that benefits consumers and workers alike.

And the fact is, when it comes to trade, our businesses are thriving right now. Our merchandise exports hit an all-time high in June, the highest in our history. And middle class families are benefiting from that success: Unemployment is at a 40-year low.

These are the conditions we have preserved and will improve, with this agreement.

My friends, Canadians are among the most enterprising and innovative people on the planet.

We have a lot more work to do. But we are on the right track.

And we did not get here by accident.

Throughout these negotiations, we all, governments and Canadians, remained focused on what matters most: Building opportunity for workers and for their families.

Our government’s purpose – first, last, and always – is to create the conditions to grow a stronger middle class, and improve opportunities for Canadians.

That is what we achieved today. It’s an important step in the right direction. And it is something of which we, and our partners, can be very proud.