WHITE HOUSE - At a signing ceremony on the White House South Lawn, U.S. President Donald Trump declared an end to what he termed “the nightmare” North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Under overcast skies with the temperature only at 6 degrees (Celsius) Wednesday, Trump — flanked by hard-hat wearing American workers — inked his name on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
“It’s a day of great celebration in all three countries,” the president said.
Much of the USMCA, which runs more than 2,000 pages, is an update to the quarter century-old NAFTA, with new laws related to intellectual property protection, the internet, currencies, investment and state-owned enterprises. The new legislation includes more stringent rules on auto manufacturing, e-commerce and labor provisions, but leaves largely unchanged the trade flows among the North American countries valued at $1.2 trillion a year.
The White House predicts the new agreement will steer more automotive production to the United States, will boost American dairy, egg and poultry exports and overall has the potential “to create nearly 600,000 jobs and generate up to $235 billion in economic activity.”
Canada is yet to ratify the pact. That process could take months with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau facing rounds of deal-making with political rivals in Ottawa to ensure passage.
Canada sent its acting ambassador, Kirsten Hillman, to the White House signing ceremony. Mexico’s delegation included its secretary of foreign affairs, Marcel Ebrard, and its economic secretary, Graciela Marquez.
Ebrard said the U.S. signing ends a time of economic uncertainty and that once Canada endorses the pact, it will start a new era for the three countries.
More than 70 U.S. lawmakers were invited to the White House event. All who attended were Republicans.
Administration officials, while acknowledging support from Democratic lawmakers was vital for the agreement’s passage, say several members of Congress from the opposition were invited although they are not naming them.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a chart detailing changes to USMCA pushed by her party which made it into the agreement, providing improved protections for workers.
“Two decades of politicians ran for office vowing to replace the NAFTA,” said Trump at the White House event. “They never even gave it a shot. They sold out. But I'm not like those other politicians, I guess, in many ways. I keep my promises and I'm fighting for the American worker.”
Replacing NAFTA with USMCA, Trump said, is “probably the number one reason that I decided to lead this crazy life that I’m leading right now, as opposed to that beautiful, simple life of luxury that I led before this happened.”
The real estate billionaire is running for re-election in November after being impeached by the House of Representatives. Trump is on trial in the Senate, where the majority of Republican members is expected to vote against removing Trump from office.
Industry is praising the pact for which Trump pushed so hard both before and during his presidency.
The president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, Jay Timmons, praised the Trump administration and leaders of both parties in Congress for “their herculean efforts to deliver this win for manufacturers of all sizes — from small family businesses to iconic global brands.”
Many environmental groups are criticizing the agreement.
“USMCA will increase dirty energy use and globalize new precedents of worse food safety protections that mean more life-threatening diseases in meat and poultry products lining the shelves of our grocery stores,” Food & Water Action Executive Director Wenonah Hauter said.
In a statement, the Sierra Club said the pact locks in "more climate disruption and toxic pollution for decades to come."