Tariff tensions shadow US, Canada, Mexico trade pact signing


By Zeke Miller and Catherine Lucy, High Plains/Midwest Ag

Dec 4, 2018


BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP)—President Donald Trump signed a revised North American trade pact with the leaders of Canada and Mexico Nov. 30, declaring the deal a major victory for workers. But tensions over tariffs, looming GM layoffs and questions about the pact’s prospects in Congress clouded the celebratory moment.


The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement is meant to replace the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump has long denigrated as a “disaster.” The leaders signed the new deal on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires after two years of frequently blistering negotiations. Each country’s legislature still must approve.


“This has been a battle, and battles sometimes make great friendships, so it’s really terrific,” Trump said, before lining up next to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and outgoing Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to sign three copies of the deal—Trump using a black marker for his signature scrawl.


The signing came at the beginning of a packed two days of diplomacy for the American president.


“There’s some good signs,” Trump said. “We’ll see what happens.”


For the new North American trade deal, legislative approval is the next step. That could prove a difficult task in the United States, especially now that Democrats—instead of Trump’s Republicans—will control the House come January. Democrats and their allies in the labor movement are already demanding changes.


Within hours of the signing, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said the deal must have stronger labor and environmental protections to get majority support in Congress and “must prove to be a net benefit to middle-class families and working people.”


Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi—who is seeking to become House speaker in the new year—quipped, “The trade agreement formerly known as Prince—no, I mean, formerly known as NAFTA, is a work in progress.”


Still, Trump projected confidence, saying: “It’s been so well reviewed I don’t expect to have very much of a problem.”


Trump is describing USMCA as a landmark trade agreement. But most companies are just relieved that it largely preserves the status quo established by NAFTA: a regional trade bloc that allows most products to travel between the United States, Canada and Mexico duty free. During the negotiations, Trump repeatedly threatened to pull out, a move that would have disrupted businesses that have built complicated supply chains that straddle the borders of the three countries.


The new agreement does make some changes to the way business is done in North America...