Just an hour after President Trump hailed the proposed revision of the North American Free Trade Agreement as a win for U.S. workers and a vindication of his hard-edged approach to trade, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau predicted the new deal would be “profoundly beneficial” for Canadian families and the middle class.
Speaking alongside Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, Mr. Trudeau gave reporters in Ottawa Canada’s first official response to the new accord.
His goal, Mr. Trudeau said, was “ultimately, we would emerge stronger” from the re-negotiation demanded by Mr. Trump, “and that’s exactly what we did.”
“We never believed it would be easy, and it wasn’t,” said Mr. Trudeau, who clashed frequently and in at times sharply personal tones with President Trump during the talks. “But today is a good day for Canada.”
Mr. Trudeau and Ms. Freeland pointed to several provisions in the new accord they say were positive for Canada, most notably the preservation of the so-called Chapter 19 dispute resolution panel in NAFTA that the U.S. had demanded be scrapped.
Canadian businesses worried that ending the independent panel would leave them at the mercy of U.S. courts when trying to resolve trade disputes.
Ms. Freeland said Canada had also been able to preserve its trade “cultural exemption,” updated to include digital platforms, to protect Canadian media and art from being overwhelmed by larger U.S. competitors.
The two conceded Canada had been forced to scale back a highly restrictive supply management system designed to effectively shield Canadian dairy farmers from U.S. competition, but said Ottawa was determined to “fully and fairly” compensate Canadian farmers for the loss of market share.
But the deal may be a tough sell in parts of Canada for Mr. Trudeau, who faces a general election sometime in the next 12 months.
“We fail to see how this deal can be good for the 220,000 Canadian families that depend on dairy for their livelihood.” Pierre Lampron, president of Dairy Farmers of Canada, said in a statement. “This has happened, despite assurances that our government would not sign a bad deal for Canadians.”
Alexandre Moreau, a public policy analysts at the Montreal Economic Institute, pointed to another provision in the trade deal that may restrict Canada’s trade options down the road. The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, he said, effectively blocks Canada from cutting its own bilateral trade deals with China and other major trading powers.
“That’s something that really worries me,” Mr. Moreau said in an interview on CNBC.