Trudeau talks trade, Gordie Howe bridge in fundraising bid
Windsor — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described a revamped trade deal with the United States and Mexico and a new international crossing at the Detroit River as significant not only for his country but the Motor City's neighbor.
"This is a big week for Canada, but really it’s a big week for Windsor," the Liberal Party of Canada leader said during a fundraiser Thursday. "Between the USMCA and the groundbreaking of the Gordie Howe bridge tomorrow -- this is a day to celebrate here in Windsor."
The prime minister's remarks followed Canada recently agreeing to join its northern and southern neighbors in a new pact that would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.
U.S. President Donald Trump has said he intends to sign the agreement by November and submit it to Congress for approval. The deal would be subject to review in six years and end in 16 years unless all three countries agree to another 16-year renewal.
Under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), Canada would open more of its dairy market to trade and drop a quota and pricing system for "Class 7" milk powders and proteins, which could benefit Michigan's struggling dairy industry.
The trilateral agreement announced late Sunday also has impact on the auto industry. It mandates that 75 percent of a car's parts come from one of the three countries to qualify for duty-free treatment.
Additionally, the USMCA requires that 40-45 percent of an auto's content be made by workers earning at least $16 per hour. Vehicles not meeting the requirements would be subject to a 2.5 percent duty.
The USMCA also contains provisions to protect up to 2.6 million cars and $32.4 billion worth of parts imported from Canada and Mexico from tariffs on imported vehicles that are being considered separately by the Trump administration.
Canada, the United States' No. 2 trading partner, had been left out when the U.S. and Mexico reached an agreement in August to revamp NAFTA.
Trudeau had said his government would not sacrifice its goal of securing the "right deal."
Speaking before the crowd at the Art Gallery of Windsor on Thursday night, the prime minister stressed the agreement would boost his nation and its residents.
The pact, he said, "is going to secure our access to the U.S. market for generations to come in a way that is deeply reassuring and beneficial to workers, to the middle class, to businesses, to investors here in Canada and all around the world."
The U.S. imported 2.4 million vehicles from Canada and 1.8 million from Mexico in 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration. Canadian automotive parts imports to the U.S. totaled $30.1 billion in 2016, according to the ITA.
Canada is also "leading the way in new technology," Trudeau said while standing near the country's red and white flag.
About 75 percent of Canada’s exports go to the U.S., so preserving major elements of the North American Free Trade Agreement was crucial. Canada is one of the most trade-dependent countries in the world and Trump’s talk of ripping up that deal and imposing a 25 percent tariff on the auto sector posed a serious economic threat.
Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s chief negotiator, has called the deal a victory because it maintains tariff-free access to the U.S. for most of the country’s exports. The Trump administration’s most contentious demands like its insistence that 50 percent of autos imports be American-made were dropped. Canada also kept a NAFTA dispute-resolution process that the U.S. wanted to jettison.
Rae-Anne Copat, a Windsor lawyer active in the Liberal Party, praised Trudeau's "courageous actions" in helping secure the deal.
"The world is ever changing, and to have a strong, compassionate grounded leader gives me pride and it makes me feel secure going forward," she said.
Trudeau on Friday also praised the Gordie Howe International Bridge project as helping forge "new ties" with the United States.
The Detroit-Windsor Bridge Authority is hosting a community kickoff event for the new span Friday in Windsor. Trudeau is expected to attend.
The span is slated to open in late 2024 as the longest "cable-stayed" bridge in North America, connecting Detroit and Windsor by linking Interstate 75 and Interstate 96 in Michigan with the new extension of Highway 401 in Ontario.
It’s considered an important part of the busiest trade crossing along the U.S.-Canada border
The Canadian government is paying to erect the span as well as both customs plazas, and aims to recoup the costs through tolls.
Canada will own the crossing along with the state of Michigan.
Both Trudeau and others who spoke during the Windsor event acknowledged the city's unique position in international affairs.
"This is a town that is resilient, that cares, that knows what it’s like to have a friend in the United States of America," said Marco Mendicino, member of parliament.
The Associated Press and Bloomberg News contributed