The Canadian Press, Automotive News Canada
December 13, 2019

The head of Canada’s parts suppliers association is warning the federal opposition parties that delaying ratification of the new North American free-trade pact would create “real acrimony” between Canada and the auto industry.

“I would say if they did that, they are inviting a big backlash from industry,” said Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association. “The time for negotiation is long over. Frankly, it was over a year ago.”

Conservative and NDP MPs have signaled they wanted time to review changes to the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement that were finalized this week before deciding whether to vote for its ratification. Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet, meanwhile, threatened to reject the deal, citing worries about its impact on the Quebec aluminum industry. With a minority in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals will need to win some support from the Conservatives, Bloc or NDP in order for the USMCA to be ratified.

The Conservatives and NDP expressed reservations with the trade deal during this fall’s election season, though Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer — who said Thursday he is stepping — pledged to ratify the USMCA despite those concerns. Scheer will stay on as interim leader. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said during the campaign that his party would be in “no rush” to ratify the deal, citing concerns over the enforceability of labour and environmental provisions.

Volpe said he thinks the parties are “flexing their muscles” in the new minority government, though he cautioned that significantly delaying ratification would make Canada “look foolish,” especially as U.S. congressional leaders move quickly to ratify the deal.

“Delay it a day or delay it a week [and] score whatever insignificant political points you have to make inside the beltway,” Volpe said. “Delay it a month, delay it several months, delay it a year or introduce the idea that you might vote it down, you’re going to have a really big problem, and it’s not political.”

It was not clear when the House of Commons would vote on the trade pact. After this week, the House of Commons was not expected to return until the end of January. Democratic lawmakers in the U.S., meanwhile, indicated they would introduce ratification legislation in Congress before leaving for winter break on Dec. 20.

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