President Trump signed the USMCA into law on Wednesday, January 29, 2020, completing the process of U.S. ratification of the agreement and moving it one step closer to replacing NAFTA. With Mexico already having ratified the USMCA, Canada is the only signatory country whose legislature has yet to act. It is expected that Canadian ratification of the USMCA will be completed in Spring 2020, but with the liberal party no longer holding a majority in the House of Commons, Canadian ratification of the USMCA will require bipartisan support, which may delay implementation of the new treaty.
Canadian ratification is not the final step, however. Each of the signatory countries must fulfill several internal procedures, which are spelled out in the agreement, before the USMCA officially enters into force. After each country completes these procedures, it is directed under the terms of the USMCA to give notice to the other countries, and the new agreement will enter into force “on the first day of the third month following the last notification.” Thus, it could be several months before NAFTA is officially replaced by the USMCA.
The USMCA makes a number of important labor, manufacturing, and environmental changes to NAFTA, but leaves the immigration provisions codified in NAFTA largely untouched. This may come as welcome news to citizens of Canada and Mexico seeking authorization to legally work in the U.S. Canadian citizens in particular benefit from a number of streamlined immigration provisions under NAFTA that will remain in place once the transition to the USCMA is complete (for a discussion of the immigration benefits available to Canadian citizens under NAFTA, click here).
Perkins Thompson has extensive experience advising U.S. and Canadian companies on cross-border travel issues. Send an email to Joe Siviski or call him at (207) 774-2635.