Canadian lawmakers hastily approved a North American free trade deal Friday before announcing parliament would be suspended until late April over concerns about the new coronavirus.

Lawmakers cut short debate to move to a vote on the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement -- known in the United States as USMCA -- which was unanimously approved.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters in Ottawa the green light was a "positive milestone" that would help the Canadian economy by ensuring exporters' access to the US market.

Already approved by the US and Mexico, the trade deal now goes through the formality of being signed off by Governor General Julie Payette, the representative in Canada of Queen Elizabeth II.

The pact replaces the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and binds nearly half a billion consumers in a single market.

US President Donald Trump had forced Canada and Mexico to the negotiating table in August 2017 by threatening to scrap it outright if it was not revamped.

He derided the original pact as a "disaster" for the US and "the worst trade deal ever made," claiming it led to a shifting of US auto industry jobs to Mexico, where labor costs are cheaper.

At the end of marathon talks, the USMCA was signed by the three parties in November 2018, on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Buenos Aires.

Canadian Vice-Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland (L), United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer (R) and Mexican negociatior Jesus Seade (C) show documents after signing in Mexico City on December 10, 2019 Canadian Vice-Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland (L), United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer (R) and Mexican negociatior Jesus Seade (C) show documents after signing in Mexico City on December 10, 2019 Photo: AFP / RODRIGO ARANGUA

But US Democrats, holding a majority in the House of Representatives, later demanded changes to the deal before ultimately nodding it through in December.

Those amendments include stronger guarantees that Mexican labor reforms can be enforced, as well as changes governing medications and environmental standards.

Trump has said the new deal represents an overhaul of trade relations among the three countries, but experts say it amounts to a tweak rather than an overhaul.

The earlier NAFTA created a vast free-trade zone across North America, leading to radical shifts in the makeup of industries in the three countries and vastly increasing cross-border exchanges in goods, services and people.

While that agreement produced winners and losers, economists say overall it increased growth and raised the standard of living in North America.

The new deal changes content rules on auto manufacturing and requires higher salaries for some Mexican auto workers.

It also makes changes to e-commerce, intellectual property protections and dispute settlement for investors, as well as tougher labor provisions that require reforms to Mexico's labor laws.