The presidents of the United States and of Mexico and Canada's Prime Minister signed Friday in Buenos Aires the new North American trade agreement, known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which is to replace the NAFTA one.
The new pact proved to be a diplomatic victory for Donald Trump over weary peers like Enrique Peña Nieto, who was on his last day as President of Mexico - his successor Andrés Manuel López Obrador was sworn in Saturday - and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as US tariffs on metal remained in place despite strong demands by Mexican business leaders last month.
The agreement will now be sent to the respective legislatures of the three countries for ratification, with expectations that it will take effect at the start of 2020. In the meantime, the 25-year-old NAFTA will remain applicable.
The chief negotiators of the three countries, Mexican Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, were on at the signing ceremony, which took place at a hotel in Buenos Aires.
“It’s been long and hard. We’ve taken a lot of barbs and a little abuse, but we got there,” Trump said. “This has been a battle and battles sometimes make great friendships. This is a model agreement that changes the trade landscape forever,” he added.
Trudeau also celebrated the new accord to wipe off uncertainties but obviously wished he had obtained something more regarding - tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum exports to the United States.
“The new agreement lifts the risk of serious economic uncertainty that lingered throughout the trade renegotiation process – uncertainty that would have only gotten worse and more damaging had we not reached a new NAFTA,” Trudeau said.
“There is much more work to do in lowering trade barriers and in fostering growth that benefits everyone, but reaching a new free trade agreement with the United States and Mexico is a major step for our economy,” he added.
The T-MEC (as it is referred to in Mexico) is an expression of the will shared by our three nations to work for well-being and prosperity,” who added that the act that we formalize today is proof that Mexico, the United States and Canada are close not just because of geography but because of the values and ambitions they share. They are ready to start a new stage of shared history.”
For Peña Nieto the signing of the agreement allowed him to finish his six-year term, which has been tarnished by corruption and violence, on a positive note. “On my last day as president, I feel very honoured to have participated in the signing of the new trade agreement between Mexico, the United States and Canada . . .” he said.
In the United States, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic minority leader and a longtime critic of Nafta, said on Friday that the new agreement could not be “simply a rebranding of the same old policies that hurt our economy and workers for years” if it is to pass Congress.
Several Republican senators have urged Trump to submit the agreement for approval before the new Democratic majority takes control of the House of Representatives in January.