Mexico, Canada, US leaders sign NAFTA replacement agreement

Canada on track for Friday signing of USMCA once details finalized: Freeland

Canada on track for Friday signing of USMCA once details finalized: Freeland

The leaders of Mexico, Canada and the United States were due to sign a North American trade pact on Friday (Nov 30), although brinkmanship over the final details of the deal continued through the eve of the signing. But tensions over tariffs, looming GM layoffs and questions about the pact's prospects in Congress clouded the celebratory moment.

The US, Mexico and Canada today signed a new deal governing the more than one trillion dollars (£780bn) worth of trade between the three countries.

Separately, a smaller group of Republican senators even tried to convince the White House to hit the gas pedal on ratification efforts, fearful that the new influx of Democrats in the new year would render congressional approval of the deal "significantly more hard". Each country's legislature still must approve.

"It's been so well-reviewed, I don't expect to have very much of a problem", he said as he stood onstage in a hotel conference room next to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The USMCA, which needs to be ratified by lawmakers from the three countries, requires at least 40 percent of auto production to come from factories with an average wage of US$16 per hour, which can put Mexico, a low-priced production hub, at a disadvantage.

"There's some good signs", Trump said.

For the new North American trade deal, legislative approval is the next step. In the US - where the recent midterm elections delivered the House of Representatives to the Democratic Party - ratification could prove more challenging. Democrats and their allies in the labor movement are already demanding changes to the agreement.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who Democrats have nominated for House speaker next year, called the deal a "work in progress" on Friday. "This is a model agreement that changes the trade landscape forever". The celebratory moment was dimmed by ongoing differences over Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs, as well as plans for massive layoffs in the US and Canada by General Motors.

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. It gives USA dairy farmers a bit more access to the protected Canadian market.

A number of domestic industries, from auto companies to pork producers, have made their case repeatedly that any benefits of the USMCA are far outweighed by the negative impact of the ongoing tariffs. In Canada and Mexico, that ratification process is expected to be pretty straightforward.

Trudeau called General Motors executives' decision to cut jobs in his country a "heavy blow" to Canadians.

Pena Nieto, who will handoff to his successor Saturday, said he was honoured to be at the signing on the last day of his administration, saying it is the culmination of a long process "that allow us to overcome differences and to conciliate our visions". Before Trump arrived in Argentina he injected additional drama into the proceedings by canceling another high-stakes meeting, with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

All three leaders are in Argentina to attend the G20 summit.

And while Canada continues to use the term NAFTA, US President Donald Trump isn't doing so.

Trump before long "exchanged pleasantries" with the crown prince, according to a White House official. Trump had told lawmakers he would veto any bill that did not include $5 billion for a southern border wall, raising the prospect of a partial government shutdown. "We might, but we had none".

He canceled the meeting Thursday, blaming it on Russian Federation capturing Ukrainian vessels on the Kerch Strait last weekend.

"I look forward to working with members of Congress", Trump said.

Top US officials were on hand for the signing, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, national security adviser John Bolton and the President's daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov called the cancellation a missed opportunity, saying in remarks from Buenos Aires that were carried by Russian state television that he doubted "this move would help settling a number of important worldwide problems".

Trump also has scheduled meetings during the summit with Argentinian President Mauricio Macro, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Posing for photos in the gilded Salon Blanco, Trump said they would discuss trade, military purchases and other issues.

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