President Trump signed his rewrite of the North American trade agreement Wednesday in a White House ceremony designed to highlight his economic winning streak and shut out Democrats who say they crafted the best parts of the deal.
The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, updates trade rules for the digital age, boosts domestic car production and makes it harder for Mexico to undercut American workers with cheap labor.
Mr. Trump said American dairy farmers are a particular beneficiary because Canada is opening up their markets.
“For the first time in American history, we have replaced a disastrous trade deal that rewarded outsourcing with a truly fair and reciprocal trade deal that will keep jobs, wealth and growth right here in America,” Mr. Trump told dozens of Republican lawmakers and delegates from Canada and Mexico on the White House South Lawn.
Mr. Trump thanked GOP senators in the audience for blessing the deal, openly buttering them up as they sit as jurors in his impeachment trial down Pennsylvania Avenue.
The president pledged in 2016 to replace trade deals that seemed skewed against U.S. workers. He called the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement “perhaps the worst trade deal ever made.”
Heading into the 2020 race, Mr. Trump’s overhaul fits squarely into his “promises made, promises kept” mantra and comes on top of a surging stock market and early-stage success in Chinese trade negotiations.
It also bolsters his persona as a leader who is willing to take on festering challenges. Both parties have criticized NAFTA for years, but no president replaced it.
“They never even gave it a shot,” Mr. Trump said of his predecessors.
Democrats whose votes were needed to ensure House passage were notably absent from the ceremony, as Mr. Trump seethes over articles of impeachment those same lawmakers dispatched to the Senate for trial.
“The White House hasn’t invited House Democrats to their USMCA signing ceremony,” said Henry Connelly, spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “But we’ll be well represented in the huge changes to the original USMCA draft that Democrats wrested out of the administration on labor, prescription drugs, environment and enforcement mechanisms.”
House Democrats sat on the deal for a year, saying they wanted stiffer protections for workers and the environment and a way to enforce those provisions. They got enough of what they wanted and approved the deal one day after impeaching the president.
“What the president is signing is quite different than what the president sent us,” Mrs. Pelosi said Wednesday.
Mexico has ratified the USMCA, so Mr. Trump’s signature puts pressure on Canada to act. Ottawa started the process on Monday, though opposition leaders are pumping the brakes on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s hopes for swift approval.
Mr. Trump thanked senators in his party for being more cooperative.
“Maybe I’m being just nice to them because I want their vote,” Mr. Trump said, in a wink and nod at the impeachment trial. “I don’t want to leave anybody out.”
Sign up for Daily Newsletters
Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.
here for reprint permission.