May 30, 2019
(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde today in Ottawa met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States Vice President Mike Pence, among others, on the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA). National Chief Bellegarde participated in the meeting as a member of the CUSMA (formerly NAFTA) Council involved in the negotiations that led to the trade agreement.
“The Canada-US-Mexico Agreement is the most inclusive trade agreement to date for Indigenous peoples, and that’s because Indigenous peoples had a voice throughout the negotiations,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde. “First Nations have a right to be at every table where decisions are made that can impact our rights, title and territories. Our participation leads to better outcomes and results for stability, certainty and integrity in trade and other domestic and international agreements. I will continue to urge Canada to ensure First Nations are involved at all tables and that all agreements recognize and implement our rights.”
National Chief Bellegarde has participated on the CUSMA (formerly NAFTA) Council since 2017. Today’s meeting also included Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft, Ambassador of Canada to the U.S. David MacNaughton, the Hon. Rona Ambrose and regular members of the CUSMA Council.
“There are many opportunities for First Nations to benefit under this trade agreement with the U.S. and Mexico in ways that respect and protect our rights, including inter-nation trade with our brothers and sisters in the United States, as we did long before the border was imposed on us,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “This agreement sets the tone for other international trade agreements to be inclusive of Indigenous peoples and to ensure recognition of our rights.”
The CUSMA was signed in November 2018. The agreement recognizes the important role First Nations and other Indigenous peoples play in the long-term conservation of the environment, and puts emphasis on the importance of cooperation activities to promote and enhance opportunities for First Nations businesses and services. The general exception clause for Indigenous Peoples Rights helps ensure the protection of inherent, Aboriginal and Treaty rights which provides a foundation for greater economic stability, certainty and integrity to international trade and prosperity to North America. The provisions addressing Indigenous peoples in the CUSMA make it the most inclusive international trade agreement for Indigenous peoples to date.
AFN resolution 36/2017, First Nations Trade Relations, affirms First Nations inherent right to trade and mandates efforts to advocate for First Nations economic growth and the development of options to secure greater economic independence.
The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.