The new USMCA trade deal between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico is overall, a good deal for Saskatchewan according to the Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership (STEP).
“Industry is generally pleased with the proposed deal as it maintains preferred market access for the major exports into the United States,” STEP President Chris Dekker said.
He explained the U.S. is Saskatchewan’s biggest customer and with a small domestic market, the province has to ship its products abroad in order to grow and succeed economically.
It’s essentially status quo for Saskatchewan’s major exports into the U.S., including oil, potash, uranium, canola and wheat.
“All of those are maintained as a preferred access into the United States, which means zero tariffs, which means we have a better access into one of the world’s largest markets at preferred rates,” Dekker said.
Dekker is also pleased with the Chapter 19 dispute-resolution provision retained in the new deal. He explained it allows for fair, transparent methods by which disputes can be resolved.
“That’s important because, without that, a deal is a very, very soft deal,” Dekker said.
A major concern remains with the steel and aluminum tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump when NAFTA negotiations stalled in May. Those tariffs along with Canada’s retaliatory tariffs are still in place. Dekker believes that means it is not truly a free-trade deal.
“It has impact on our markets, it has an impact on prices and also uncertainty, which business does not like,” Dekker said.
He hopes those tariffs will be resolved by the time USMCA is ratified in November.
Sask Milk has concerns over deal
Saskatchewan’s dairy industry has big concerns over the new trade deal between the US, Canada and Mexico.
Joy Smith with Sask Milk calls it a very bad day for many.
“What this means for Saskatchewan’s family dairy farms, because all of our dairy farms in Saskatchewan are run by families in rural areas, this means that there is going to be a loss of income for them,” Smith said. “They are really devastated by this give. We feel as though we were used as pawns, politically.”
Dairy farmers believe the new deal will undercut the industry by limiting exports and opening up the market to more American products.
The federal government says farmers will be compensated for losses that result from the new deal, but that’s cold comfort for Smith.
“They don’t want the government giving them a bunch of money. That’s not what the point was,” Smith said. “They didn’t want tax dollars, they just wanted to produce milk for a good price, that’s it.”
There are around 5,000 jobs related to dairy in Saskatchewan.
Steel tariff dispute not resolved, steelworkers unhappy
While there are lots of smiling faces across the country now that a deal has been reached, Mike Day’s is not one of them.
Day is the head of the Steelworkers Union for workers at Evraz Steel.
The new USMCA doesn’t have any provisions to solve the dispute over steel and aluminum – 25 per cent tariffs on imports to the U.S. were introduced this spring and summer.
“Seems like we’ve kind of been sold out right now, so it’s hard to digest everything else when you get slapped with this one,” said Day Monday morning.
“Doesn’t seem like a very good deal for a lot of people in Canada right now.”
Day said, since the tariffs came into effect, things have been very uncertain for workers at Evraz. He said the company has been able to make deals with customers so far but they don’t know how long that will be able to last.
He’s hoping the federal government will now get on things and work something out.
“Just ‘cuz they seem to got (sic) some sort of NAFTA deal done, I’d hope we’re not left by the side here on this.”
Speaking Monday morning in Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said steel remains a priority for Canada and U.S. representatives have indicated they’re willing to work on it.
At that news conference it was explained that, as per the USMCA, future tariffs implemented under the national security provision would be subject to a 60-day consultation period to work things out.
— With files from Lisa Schick, Andrew Shepherd and Chris Carr