President Trump on Friday signed the new North American trade agreement along with the leaders of Canada and Mexico, marking a significant victory on the first day of the G-20 economic summit in Buenos Aires.
The pact overhauls the former North American Free Trade Agreement, which has, for the last 25 years, governed the movement of capital and goods across North American borders.
“This has been a battle and battles sometimes make great friendships so it’s really terrific,” Trump said while standing alongside Canadian Prime Minister Justi Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. “With our signatures today we will formally declare the intention of our three countries to replace NAFTA with the USMCA.”
“We have worked hard on this agreement,” he added. “It’s been long and hard and we have taken a lot of barbs and a little abuse and we got there, it’s great for all of our countries.”
The new agreement is now expected to face staunch Congressional opposition as newly empowered House Democrats will be reluctant to hand the president a political win absent significant concessions in other policy disputes. Representative Nancy Pelosi, who was nominated this week to lead the caucus as Speaker, said Thursday that she would oppose the deal due to inadequate protections for workers.
Free trade Republicans in the Senate are also expected to hold out their support until certain protectionist provisions are eliminated. Though the deal was finalized in October, the U.S. has not yet lifted steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada and Mexico, prompting backlash from U.S. business groups and further straining its relationship with trading partners.
Negotiations to lift the tariffs are currently underway and Mexican officials are reportedly considering limiting metal shipments to the U.S. to 80 percent of current levels. Canada, however, has refused to limit future exports to the U.S. but has pledged to assist the U.S. in limiting cheap steel imports from China, Eric Miller, president of Rideau Potomac Strategy Group, told the Washington Post.
Trudeau cited the recent closure of five U.S. General Motors plants during his remarks Friday, arguing that the loss for America’s workers illustrates the importance of eliminating the remaining steel and aluminum tariffs.
“Donald, it’s all the more reason why we need to keep working to remove the tariffs on steel and aluminum between our two countries,” Trudeau said of the factory closings.