US, Canada, Mex­ico sign trade deal

Odds for pas­sage un­clear in 3 na­tions’ leg­is­la­tures

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - NEWS - Michael Collins Con­tribut­ing: John Fritze

BUENOS AIRES, Ar­gentina – Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and the lead­ers of Mex­ico and Canada signed a re­vised trade pact Fri­day that changes many of the rules gov­ern­ing the free flow of com­mer­cial goods across North Amer­ica.

The cer­e­mony, held on the first day of the G-20 sum­mit here, brought the three coun­tries a step closer to their goal of im­prov­ing con­ti­nen­tal com­merce and mak­ing it eas­ier for com­pa­nies to move goods and sup­plies across their bor­ders.

“This has been a bat­tle, and bat­tles some­times make great friend­ships,” Trump said. “This is a model agree­ment that changes the trade land­scape for­ever.”

But many other steps will be needed be­fore the new agree­ment takes ef­fect.

“There’s still a lot of work to do on this deal be­fore we hit the fin­ish line,” said Daniel Ujczo, an in­ter­na­tional trade at­tor­ney in Ohio.

The United States-Mex­ico-Canada Agree­ment, an­nounced with fan­fare by the lead­ers of all three coun­tries in late Septem­ber af­ter months of on-again, off-again ne­go­ti­a­tions, will re­place the 24-year-old North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment. That agree­ment, known as NAFTA, es­sen­tially elim­i­nated tar­iffs on most goods traded among the three coun­tries.

Trump, Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent En­rique Peña Ni­eto and Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau have all lauded the new pact as good for their coun­tries’ economies and for work­ers. All three took part in Fri­day morn­ing’s sign­ing cer­e­mony.

But the agree­ment still must be rat­i­fied by the leg­isla­tive bod­ies of all three coun­tries – a process that could take months and could be com­pli­cated by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s tar­iffs on alu­minum and steel and by the House Democrats’ re­turn to power in Jan­uary.

“We need to re­move the tar­iffs on steel and alu­minum be­tween our two coun­tries,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau, who has had a rocky re­la­tion­ship with Trump, de­scribed the agree­ment as the “new NAFTA.” Trump, who ran for pres­i­dent on a prom­ise to end that con­tro­ver­sial 1994 deal, has in­stead em­braced the acro­nym “USMCA.”

Mex­ico is ex­pected to go first. Mex­ico’s in­com­ing pres­i­dent, Andres Manuel López Obrador, will take of­fice Satur­day. The Mex­i­can Se­nate is ex­pected to rat­ify the trade pact quickly so the new ad­min­is­tra­tion can fo­cus on its do­mes­tic agenda.

In Canada, where the agree­ment has been met with skep­ti­cism by dairy farm­ers and oth­ers, Par­lia­ment is un­likely to take up the pact un­til af­ter it is rat­i­fied by the U.S. Congress.

A vote in Congress prob­a­bly won’t hap­pen be­fore next March or April and could pos­si­bly be de­layed as late as next fall, said Ujczo, who works for the law firm of Dick­in­son Wright and closely fol­lowed trade talks of the three coun­tries.

Trump said the agree­ment had al­ready been heav­ily re­viewed by law­mak­ers. “I don’t ex­pect to have much of a prob­lem,” Trump said. Later, he took to Twitter to boast about the deal.

“Just signed one of the most im­por­tant, and largest, Trade Deals in U.S. and World His­tory,” he wrote. “The United States, Mex­ico and Canada worked so well to­gether in craft­ing this great doc­u­ment. The ter­ri­ble NAFTA will soon be gone. The USMCA will be fan­tas­tic for all!”

The U.S. In­ter­na­tional Trade Com­mis­sion will re­lease its re­port on the trade deal’s im­pact on the economy early next year, prob­a­bly in March. Congress will al­most cer­tainly wait for that re­port be­fore sched­ul­ing a vote on the deal, an­a­lysts said.

House Democrats’ re­turn to power in Jan­uary could slow the rat­i­fi­ca­tion process fur­ther. The new agree­ment in­cludes some poli­cies em­braced by Democrats, in­clud­ing stronger la­bor and en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­vi­sions. But crit­ics have com­plained those pro­vi­sions don’t go far enough and are filled with too many loop­holes.

Though trade deals are usu­ally sub­ject to an up-or-down vote with no amend­ments, Congress still would have to pass leg­is­la­tion to im­ple­ment the agree­ment. House Democrats could use that leg­is­la­tion as the ve­hi­cle to try to strengthen the la­bor and en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­vi­sions or ex­tract con­ces­sions from the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion on un­re­lated is­sues.

PRES­I­DENCY OF MEX­ICO VIA EPE-EFE

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent En­rique Peña Ni­eto, left, and Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau have all lauded the new pact as good for their coun­tries’ economies and for work­ers.

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