WASHINGTON (TNS) — President Donald Trump on Monday lauded the new trade deal with Canada and Mexico as the most important ever for the U.S. and "a historic win" for American farmers, manufacturers and auto workers.
"Once approved by Congress, this new deal will be the most modern, up-to-date and balanced trade agreement in the history of our country, with the most advanced protections for workers ever developed," Trump said during a news conference at the White House, flanked by top administration officials.
U.S. negotiators and their Canadian counterparts came to terms on a deal late Sunday, beating a midnight procedural deadline to try to save the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Trump has blasted NAFTA, which took effect in 1994, as a horrible trade deal — "perhaps the worst trade deal ever made," he repeated on Monday — and renegotiating it was a pillar of his 2016 campaign.
Trump said Monday was a new day for trade relations among the three North American nations, a point he highlighted by declaring that the acronym NAFTA was dead. The new deal will be called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA.
"USMCA. Has a good ring to it," he said.
Trump noted that the agreement covers $1.2 trillion in annual trade.
Despite the Sunday breakthrough that added Canada to a renegotiated agreement the U.S. and Mexico already had struck, the pact does not resolve all the trade tensions among the three nations.
Trump said Monday that tariffs the U.S. has placed on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and Mexico will remain in place "until such time as we can do something different," such as quotas, "so that our industry is protected."
Administration officials said the new deal revised rules on auto manufacturing and worker rights, as well as added updated or new provisions on digital trade, financial services and other areas of commerce that were not major factors when the pact was ratified under the Clinton administration.
Auto rules were a key part of the deal. NAFTA currently requires that 62.5 percent of the content of cars be produced in North America to qualify for tariff-free trade among the three nations.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer had sought to raise that threshold to 80 percent and establish a new requirement that 50 percent of the vehicle's contents be sourced in the United States for zero-tariff treatment. Those moves were intended to curb offshoring to Mexico and increase auto investment and production in the United States.
In the end, the parties settled on raising the North American rule of origin for autos to 75 percent. And they agreed to a novel scheme that 40 percent to 45 percent of the content of cars must be produced by workers making at least $16 an hour, which Trump officials hope will shift more production and jobs to the U.S.
"We are requiring a large portion of every car to be made by high-wage workers, which will greatly reduce foreign outsourcing, which was a tremendous problem, and means more auto parts and automobiles will be manufactured inside the United States," Trump said Monday. "We will be manufacturing many more cars."