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From NAFTA 2.0 to elections in Quebec: weekly news roundup

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After months of tense negotiations, Canada agreed to a new NAFTA deal, now called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

Our writers distill what you need to know, weighing in on the good, the bad and the ugly. Sujata Dey, a trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians, points to two wins in the new agreement. First, the loss of the investor-state dispute-settlement (ISDS) process, which allowed private corporations to sue governments for lost profits related to public policy, and the removal of NAFTA's energy proportionality clause, which obliges Canada to export a set amount of energy to the U.S.

Meanwhile, Brent Patterson notes that while the USMCA may not contain an ISDS process, its six-year anniversary review process will likely achieve a similar effect, deterring the Canadian government from imposing regulations that may be deemed unfavourable by foreign investors.

But the new deal is no cause for celebration, Patterson argues. Clauses related to the environment and Indigenous communities fail to bind countries to adopt the United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples; lengthens drug patents, shoring up Big Pharma's profits; and Canadian farms will take a blow now that the U.S. has access to the Canadian dairy supply management chain. All in all, the agreement is far from the "progressive" trade deal Trudeau promised.

For more in-depth coverage of USMCA and its implications for Canadians, listen to Unifor President Jerry Dias interviewed on rabble radio, read Brent Patterson on why Big Oil companies are celebrating, and follow Duncan Cameron's analysis on why the deal represents a capitulation to Trump on trade.

In other rabble news

Karl Nerenberg reports on the Quebec elections, where for the first time in over 50 years, a political party other than the Liberals or the Parti Québécois won power. Premier-elect François Legault, head of the new right-wing Coalition Avenir Québec government, wasted no time in announcing his plans to push through a controversial ban on religious garments, slash the civil service, and cut the number of immigrants to Quebec.

After speculation that the federal government would appeal the September court decision that overturned approval of the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, Trudeau has announced it will instead redo consultations with Indigenous stakeholders. Karl Nerenberg reviews Trudeau's course of action, and looks at the former Supreme Court justice, Frank Iacobucci, appointed to lead the talks with First Nations.

Sophia Reuss is rabble's Assistant Editor. 

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