WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and outgoing Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USCMA) Friday, a trade deal that the White House has touted as a replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
“This is a model agreement that changes the trade landscape forever and this is an agreement that first and foremost benefits working people, something of great importance to all three of us here today,” Trump said during a signing ceremony in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the site of the G20 summit.
While the bulk of the agreement aligns with what was already on the books with NAFTA, Trump touted changes that would benefit U.S. industries.
They includes requiring a portion of all cars manufactured in the three countries to be produced by workers making at least $16 an hour, or the foreign equivalent, a step that would give the U.S. an edge in the auto industry.
Trump made renegotiating NAFTA a centerpiece of his 2016 presidential campaign and the road to the new agreement was a long and, at times, bitter one.
All three leaders, however, expressed optimism Friday.
“It’s been long and hard. We’ve taken a lot of barbs and a little abuse and we got there,” Trump said. “It’s great for all of our countries.”
Speaking on his final day in office, Peña Nieto heralded the agreement as a “new chapter.”
Peña Nieto had awarded White House aide Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, his nation’s highest honor, the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle, earlier that day, partially due to Kushner’s role in the trade negotiations.
Trudeau, whose country was the last to sign on to the deal, said the agreement “maintains stability for Canada’s entire economy … that’s essential for the millions of jobs and middle-class families across the country that rely on strong and reliable trading relationships.”
The agreement is still subject to Congressional approval but Trump predicted that it will move forward easily, even with the House of Representatives set to shift to Democratic control in January.
“It’s been so well reviewed, I don’t expect to have very much of a problem,” Trump said.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), however, issued a statement signaling that Democratic support is not a surefire bet.
“It must prove to be a net benefit to middle-class families and working people in our country and must have strong labor and environmental protections, which in the present deal are too weak,” Schumer said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues in both the House and Senate to write implementing legislation in the weeks and months ahead.”