President Donald Trump signed the historic U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement on the South Lawn of the White House on Wednesday, triumphantly fulfilling his campaign promise to rewrite “one of the worst trade deals” in history.
“Today, we are finally ending the NAFTA nightmare and signing into law the brand new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement,” Trump said.
“The USMCA is the largest, fairest, most balanced and modern trade agreement ever achieved. There’s never been anything like it.”
The USMCA is the biggest trade deal of all-time, covering more than $1.3 trillion of commerce. It is the second major trade deal secured by the Trump administration this year. The agreement has already been ratified by Mexico, but not yet by Canada.
Trump’s plan to replace NAFTA, which led to the outsourcing of millions of US jobs, was met with great skepticism and resistance from Democrats. The passage of USMCA on January 16 came one day after the Trump administration signed a hard fought trade deal with China.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California was not invited to the signing ceremony. Trump was not inclined to share the historic moment with her and her band of treacherous Democrats in the middle of an impeachment trial.
She delayed the passage of the bill for over one year while she steered the conduct of multiple investigations into the president and passed two articles of impeachment.
Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat who played a key role in the passage of USMCA was also not on the guest list. Neither were working members of the House Democratic USMCA working group, who negotiated changes to the deal with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
A Senate Republican aide told CNN that because Democrats took months to negotiate changes to the original agreement, thus delaying its passage, they didn’t deserve to attend the ceremony.
“Democrats dragged their feet on USMCA for more than a year after it was signed, so I wouldn’t be surprised,” the aide said. “It took a year of pressure and public shaming. That’s not an equal partner in victory.”
Republican members of the House and Senate were seated in the front rows, including the president’s staunchest defenders throughout the impeachment process.
“This is a colossal victory for our farmers and ranchers,” Trump said. “Everybody said this was a deal that could not be done, but we got it done.” He congratulated key members of Congress who fought tirelessly for the passage of the agreement.
“I want to thank several members of Congress who were key in getting the agreement done including Senator Chuck Grassley. Where is Chuck? He was brutal. And Pat Roberts, Martha McSally. “I want to just if I could mention, because we do have some incredible people that work so hard, and uh, senators,” said Trump.
“Maybe I’m being just nice to them because I want their vote. Does that make sense?” the president said as the audience laughed. “I don’t want to leave anybody out. Hey congressmen, I already got your vote, 196 to nothing. To hell with you.” He also singled out Rep. Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Steve Scalise, praising them for their assistance.
NAFTA required automakers to produce 62.5 percent of a vehicle’s content in North America to qualify for zero tariffs. The new agreement raises that threshold, over time, to 75 percent. It is hoped that it will force automakers to source fewer parts for an “Assembled in Mexico” car from Germany, Japan, South Korea or China.
The pact also requires 70 percent of a vehicle’s steel and aluminum to originate in North America, with steel being both melted and poured on the continent. It also contains updates to digital trade and copyright rules and gives American producers better access to Canadian dairy markets.
USMCA requires at least 40% of the parts for a car to be produced in plants where workers make at least $16 an hour, which would triple the average wage in a Mexican factory. Administration officials hope the provision will either force automakers to buy more supplies from Canada or the United States, or force wages in Mexico to rise.
The deal took more than 14 months to finalize as the Trump administration battled with Democrats over enforcement of labor and environmental standards. These issues were largely resolved and USMCA garnered the support of most of the party’s senators.