PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau isnt saying what he is willing to do to keep a provision protecting labour rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer workers inside a renewed North American free trade pact.
More than 40 Republican lawmakers wrote U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday demanding the removal of language in the agreement pledging all three countries to support "policies that protect workers against employment discrimination on the basis of sex, including with regard to pregnancy, sexual harassment, sexual orientation, gender identity."
The three countries are expected to sign the deal, known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA for short, at the G20 meeting in Argentina at the end of the month.
Trudeau says the deal Canada negotiated has some of the strongest labour and environmental provisions of any trade deal the country has signed.
Observers say there is chatter about admitting the United States and China into the CPTPP to create a further-reaching regional trade pact. Morrison noted that the countries who ratified the agreement were leaving the door open for others to come join, which we would welcome.
He also says he is not going to negotiate in public when asked how far he would go to keep the provision in the agreement.
"We got to a good agreement that I think represents Canadian values, Canadian approach, but also values that are broadly shared amongst citizens of our three countries," Trudeau said Sunday at the end of a summit of Asia-Pacific leaders.
"In any trade deal, there are going to be people who would like this or like that or not want this or not want that," he said, adding that moving forward with a strong agreement is in the interest of all three countries.
In his meeting with Morrison, Trudeau said Canada and Australia have been aligned over these past couple of days on big issues of trade and the rules-based order, but noted that conversations are going on to the last minute.
In a letter to the White House flagged Friday by the U.S. website Politico, the coalition of 40 members of Congress said the United States "has the right to decide when, whether and how to tackle issues of civil rights, protected classes and workplace rights" as a sovereign nation.
Signatories to the letter include Iowa Republican Steve King, who made headlines in Canada last month when he tweeted his support for the controversial Toronto mayoral campaign of alt-right anti-immigration champion Faith Goldy.
Another signatory, Republican Doug Lamborn, has expressed concern congressional approval for USMCA could set a precedent "for activist courts" and he said in a statement Friday that Trump needed to remove the "troubling language … adopted behind the scenes."
The deal must make its way through Congress, and the letter sent Friday to Trump suggests he could lose some Republican support for the agreement unless changes are made.
"Canada will, the United States will," he said. "But were going to let the American officials and administration focus on their ratification process while we focus on ours."
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said he has not been asked by the United Nations to extend Canadas peacekeeping mission in Mali, which is set to end in July.
The biggest success of President Donald Trumps prolonged trade battles has come in the form of a revised trade deal with Canada and Mexico.
But recent statements from key members of Congress have potentially thrown the future of that deal in question.
Creeping doubt from leading Democrats and a group of conservative House members have created fresh concern that the the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which was agreed to by the three member countries on September 30, will be able to pass Congress without some significant changes.
Th USMCA, which is primarily an update of the existing North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), would make adjustments to rules on cars, dairy, and other goods flowing between the US, Canada, and Mexico.
The USMCA always faced the headwind that it was moving forward at a heightened period of political uncertainty, such as the presidential changeover in Mexico and the midterm elections in the US.
Democrats in general are more skeptical of free trade agreements than their GOP counterparts. The original NAFTA was passed with mostly Republican votes despite being agreed to under President Bill Clinton. Former President Barack Obama, meanwhile, needed extensive GOP support to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Despite not being able to make large changes to the text — that would require Trump to reopen negotiations with Mexico and Canada — legislation can help determine the level of enforcement of certain parts of the USMCA.
Rep. Bill Pascrell, who could lead the critical House Ways and Means Committee next year, told Bloomberg that the USMCA cant pass as is. He said there needs “to be not only changes in the legislation but more enforcement” in the deal to get enough Democrats on board.
Other Democrats have also expressed misgivings. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, considered the frontrunner to be the next House speaker, has called for strengthening the pro-labor and environmental aspects of the deal by making them legally enforceable, instead of just guidelines.
“Most important of all are the enforcement provisions in terms of labor and the environment,” Pelosi told The New York Times. “Enforcement, enforcement, enforcement.”
Read more: A top Republican senator just made it clear that Trumps new trade deal with Mexico and Canada could still fall apart
But amid the early wobbles, most analysts expect the deal to eventually get done. If Democrats dont agree to the deal, Trump could threaten to pull the US out of NAFTA entirely — which would be an economic disaster — and Democrats dont have an alternate track to take.
“We got to a good agreement that I think represents Canadian values, Canadian approach, but also values that are broadly shared amongst citizens of our three countries,” Trudeau said Sunday at the end of a summit of Asia-Pacific leaders.
“We believe that will happen early next year as we dont believe Democrats will derail the USMCA without a viable alternative just to deprive Trump of a win,” Nancy Vanden Houten, senior economist at Oxford Economics, wrote in a post-midterm note to clients.
Given Democrats hesitation, Trump needs near-unanimous support from his own party to ensure the USMCAs passage.
“In any trade deal, there are going to be people who would like this or like that or not want this or not want that,” he said, adding that moving forward with a strong agreement is in the interest of all three countries.
Forty conservative House members sent a letter to Trump on Friday expressing displeasure with a provision in the USMCA that requires member countries to beef up workplace protections for LGBT people.
The House members argue that the deal could force the US to make significant changes to labor laws to make sexual orientation and gender identity a protected class — or risk getting kicked out of the economically critical deal.
Read more: The US, Canada, and Mexicos new trade pact looks a lot like NAFTA. Here are the key differences between them.
Losing 40 GOP members in the House would require more than 50 Democrats to flip and support the deal for it to pass, which is highly unlikely.
But making any such changes would be difficult. The deal text is set to be signed at the G20 summit on November 30, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is unlikely to accept any side deals to allow the US to ease up the protections.
“This is language that is going to cause a lot of people to reconsider their support of the trade agreement, and to the point that it may endanger the passage of the trade agreement unless something is done,” GOP Rep. Doug Lamborn told Politico on Friday.