On January 29, 2020, President Trump signed the implementing legislation for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (“USMCA”), which is set to replace the nearly 25-year-old NAFTA. Both houses of Congress approved the new deal by overwhelming, bi-partisan majorities, with the Senate ultimately voting 89-10 in favor of the USMCA. Democrats in both Chambers only assented to the Deal after negotiating additional safeguards with respect to contentious provisions regarding labor, environmental protections, and pharmaceutical issues. Other substantive changes include amending country of origin rules that dictate whether a good is tariff free. The Deal also includes a 16-year Sunset Clause, as well as the ability to extend the deal in 6 years.
Importantly, President’s Trump signature, alone, does not mean the USMCA is now in effect. For that to happen, Canada must first pass its own implementing legislation – a process it commenced earlier this week following the U.S. Senate’s vote two weeks ago. Thereafter, the three countries must confirm they have met certain obligations on which USCMA’s full implementation remain contingent. Confirming these obligations have been met opens another opportunity for delays, as each countries’ trade representatives argue over whether their counterparts have, in fact, met these conditions. Once confirmed, there will be an additional 60-day period before USMCA goes live. Optimistically, this process will conclude this summer; however, it could drag on. In the meantime, NAFTA will continue to govern.
However, as we covered upon initial publication, even after it’s been implemented the USMCA’s immigration provisions with respect to TN Professionals will remain largely untouched, to the point that they will continue to keep the same “TN” nomenclature under the new deal. Though we are disappointed that the Professions List will remain trapped in the early 1990s, this consistency does offer predictability so long as adjudicators continue reviewing submissions as per existing guidance.