From NAFTA to CUSMA: The Changes, The Additions, and What Remains

The Conference Board of Canada, June 12, 2019
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Trade relations among North American countries have been on a rollercoaster. The three countries have agreed on a new deal—CUSMA—which has yet to be ratified. This report looks at what’s changed, what’s the same, and what’s new in the new agreement.

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Document Highlights

Trade relations among North American countries have been on a rollercoaster since 2016. All three countries have agreed on a deal (CUSMA). CUSMA includes new elements that did not exist under NAFTA, such as a sunset clause, a “non-market economy” clause, and a chapter on digital trade. Canada also succeeded in maintaining elements included in NAFTA, such as the cultural exemption, the trade dispute resolution mechanism, core components of NAFTA related to the auto industry, Canada’s supply management system, and intellectual property, although with some changes and additions. In many cases, the changes and additions reflect concessions by Canada.

While the deal was signed, it has yet to be ratified. The continued uncertainty about the future of the deal and the difficult circumstances in which the negotiations took place both point to the need for Canada to diversify its trade and work on improving its global competitiveness.

Table of Contents



Section 1–Introduction

  • Summary

Section 2–Key NAFTA element that remain under CUSMA

  • Summary
  • Dispute settlement mechanism under NAFTA’s chapter 19
  • The Canadian cultural exemption

Section 3–Key NAFTA elements modified under CUSMA

  • Summary
  • The auto industry
  • Products under the supply management policy
  • Intellectual property

Section 4–New elements included in CUSMA

  • Summary
  • The “non-market economy” clause
  • Review and term extension (the “sunset clause”)
  • U.S. national security safeguards
  • Removal of the investor–state dispute settlement mechanism
  • Canada’s inclusive approach to trade
  • Digital trade

Section 5–Conclusion

  • Summary

Appendix A–Bibliography

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