Remarks by Minister Ng at the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) Free Trade Commission Meeting


May 18, 2021 - Ottawa, Ontario

Check against delivery. This speech has been translated in accordance with the Government of Canada’s official languages policy and edited for posting and distribution in accordance with its communications policy.

Good morning Ambassador Tai and Secretary Clouthier. Bonjour à tous ceux et celles qui nous accompagnent aujourd’hui.

Thank you Ambassador Tai for hosting us virtually for this first meeting of the CUSMA Free Trade Commission. We’ve met separately and it’s great the three of us are coming together now.

Before I begin, I’d like to acknowledge that I’m on the traditional territory of many nations, including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Ah-nish-naw-bek [Anishnabeg] Hoodt-en-oh-show-nee [Haudenosaunee], the Chippewa, and the Wendat peoples. For those of us who are settlers or even immigrants to Canada, it’s important to recognize that Indigenous peoples have always been here, and that we all have a role to play in reconciliation moving forward. 

It has now been a year since the new NAFTA entered into force—a difficult year which plunged our respective nations into one of the biggest health and economic crises in modern memory.

We know the fight against COVID-19 has been incredibly challenging for workers, families, communities and businesses around the world—and has disproportionately impacted our most vulnerable.

But it has also shown us the resilience of our industries, the importance of our trade relationships, and how critical it is to maintain open global supply chains.

Above all, it has reinforced the importance of our relationships with one another.

For Canada, there are no closer trade relationship than that which we have with the United States and Mexico.

Through our people-to-people and business-to-business ties, NAFTA, and then CUSMA, together our three nations have one of the strongest relationships in the world.

The strength of this relationship is seen in trade, jobs and a strong interconnected economy.

While the pandemic has tested each of our countries, the North American partnership that we have forged has remained solid and will be part of the foundation to support a strong, sustainable, and inclusive economic recovery for all our people.

Integrated Supply Chains

Our trade relationship is built on long-established, deeply integrated supply chains – networks of workers and businesses that aren’t just selling to each other, but innovating and building together.

Many of our traded goods, cross our borders to become the final "North American" products that we buy and sell from each other, and around the world.

That is why our trade relationship is so important.

Since 1993, trilateral merchandise trade between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico has more than tripled, a testament to our success in expanding opportunities in the North American market. In 2019 it was valued at $1.5 trillion dollars.

Over the course of the pandemic, our supply chains were put under immense pressure, but trade did not stop.

Businesses, and their hard working employees, demonstrated incredible resilience, innovation and creativity in adapting and helping us meet challenges.

As we emerge from this crisis, we want to ensure that workers, businesses, and small businesses in particular, can rely on the stability and transparency of our trading system to grow and thrive.

We remain committed to our strong relationship, which is more important than ever as we rebuild and recover from this pandemic.

Rules Based, Inclusive Trade

Long before COVID-19, Canada has been committed to the rules-based international order and the enforcement of these rules in trade.

Trade agreements, and multilateral, rules-based trade, works. It ensures balance, security, and fairness for our businesses. The new NAFTA renews and modernizes the framework for our North American businesses to operate and grow across our three countries.

And by working to implement the New NAFTA, we are creating prosperity and well-paying jobs for Canadians, Americans and Mexicans.

As part of our continuing commitment to strong and reliable trade, Canada is a founding member of the Ottawa Group, which convenes like-minded trading nations committed to modernizing the World Trade Organization and strengthening rules-based trade globally.

Trade and Health

Last year we also took concrete action with international partners to adapt to COVID-19, so that crucial goods such as food, medicine, raw materials used in making PPE, continue to flow equitably around the world.

We will continue to work together, as we have done throughout the pandemic including  through our work on the WTO’s Trade and Health Initiative, to ensure that our essential health and medical supply chains remain open and resilient.

Crucially, we must also continue our hard work with one another, and with all international partners, to find solutions that accelerate the production and equitable distribution of affordable, effective, life-saving vaccines.

This pandemic isn’t over anywhere until it’s over everywhere, and we are committed to continuing our work towards a speedy and just global recovery.

Inclusive Trade and North American Competitiveness

We also know that trade works best when its benefits are felt by all.

We want to ensure that traditionally underrepresented entrepreneurs and industries see themselves as traders and benefit from our trade agreements including women, racialized communities, and Indigenous peoples.

That’s why we’ve made them integral to our most recent free trade agreements, like the new NAFTA.

And in the New NAFTA, we have included strong provisions to protect the environment and labour, gender, and small businesses, so that our trade is reflective of the future of our economies and is more sustainable and inclusive to benefit everyone.

By updating the rules of trade within North America and simplifying trade processes, we are making it easier for businesses to grow around the world while anchoring their success in North America.

We are affirming our commitment to work together to support North America’s competitiveness, and to help build a safe, stable and predictable business environment.

Future of Trading – Sustainable and Digital

And while we work to finish the fight against COVID-19, we are looking ahead to recovery. As the world looks to reopen businesses and return to safe workplaces, we will face an economy redefined by the pandemic.

This past year has only expedited the worlds transition to a more digital economy, and we know digital industries will help us recover faster from this pandemic.

That’s why we’re working hard to support digital trade in North America, knowing that it will help all businesses—from mains street retailers to high-tech innovators—grow and succeed.

You can see the progress we’ve made to support more businesses in the digital sphere, in our leadership on digital trade agreements and historic investments we are making  to ensure Canadian SMEs have the resources they need to go digital, adopt new technologies, and have the protection they need as they trade across borders. 

At the same time as we shift to a more digital economy, we are seeing another global shift—this one towards sustainability.

We know that the environment and the economy go hand in hand.

As the new NAFTA includes progressive chapters on the environment, we must do more to address climate change, which is why Canada has committed to bring forward new measures to exceed our 2030 target and reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Our aim is to build a more resilient Canada that is healthier, safer, greener and more competitive.


We, as Ministers, have an important role to play in ensuring that the Agreement lives up to its full potential and yields benefits directly to our communities.

We also recognize the need for common action to address some of the pressing global challenges in these times, such as addressing climate change and environmental issues, and combatting forced labour.

There is tremendous room for us to work together trilaterally as well as at the multilateral stage to address critical issues.

By implementing the new NAFTA, we are sending a strong signal to our people, businesses, communities and investors about our renewed commitment to the trilateral economic partnership—one that protects workers, supports small businesses, creates opportunity for underrepresented groups, and contributes to a more sustainable, inclusive future.

I know that if Canada, the United States and Mexico continue to work together, we can recover from COVID-19 and lead the world in a greener, safer and modern economic recovery.

I look forward to working with you both as we continue the implementation of the Agreement and ensure that we emerge from these challenging times stronger, better and closer than ever before.

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