President Donald Trump signed his landmark rewrite of NAFTA into law on Wednesday, smack dab in the middle of his impeachment trial.
“Today, we are finally ending the NAFTA nightmare and signing into law the brand-new U.S.–Mexico–Canada Agreement,” Trump said at a signing ceremony on the White House’s South Lawn on Wednesday, according to The Hill. “The USMCA is the largest, fairest, most balanced and modern trade agreement ever achieved.”
Replacing “the worst deal ever”
Donald Trump campaigned in 2016 on replacing the Bill Clinton-era North American Free Trade Agreement, which he called “the worst deal ever” and blamed for the destruction of America’s manufacturing sector. That theme resonated in Trump’s speech Wednesday, as he recounted how NAFTA cost the country millions of jobs and hollowed out communities for two decades, something that nobody in Washington had the guts to do something about until he came along.
“It’s probably the No. 1 reason that I decided to lead this crazy life that I’m leading now instead of that beautiful, simple life of luxury that I led before this happened,” Trump said of rewriting NAFTA, according to The Washington Times. “But I love doing it.”
Trump added that the deal will unleash economic growth, open up Canadian dairy markets to American farmers, and reverse incentives for auto manufacturers to outsource jobs to “ensure cars are fashioned by American hands, that’s a fancy way of saying built.” The president also said that the deal includes new labor protections, touting USMCA’s endorsement by the AFL-CIO labor union, as well as protections for intellectual property and environmental standards.
“For the first time in our 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,” Trump said.
The new trade deal will add 176,000 jobs, the U.S. International Trade Commission said, according to the Times. Mexico has implemented the deal, and it awaits ratification in Canada.
Another win in the books
The signing gives Trump a major achievement as he faces his impeachment trial in the Senate, which is coming down to the wire with a Friday vote on witnesses. Trump did not acknowledge the involvement of Democrats who negotiated the trade deal Wednesday, but he drew laughs from the crowd with jokes about the trial as he acknowledged Republican lawmakers by name.
“Maybe I’m just being nice to them ’cause I want their vote,” the president quipped, according to The Hill. Take a look at a clip of his speech, courtesy of CBS News:
Dems get left out
For their part, Democrats, who were not among the 400 or so guests at the signing ceremony, complained that they had been snubbed by the White House and that their work on the trade deal had passed unacknowledged, according to Reuters. Although the U.S., Canada, and Mexico reached a deal in December 2018, it took another year of negotiations between Congress and the White House to hammer out a final deal, which finally passed the House this December — a day after Trump’s impeachment — after Democrats secured certain labor and environmental standards, The Hill noted.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has consistently touted the Democrats’ involvement in the trade deal, calling the White House’s original draft a poor deal for American workers. A spokesman for Pelosi similarly praised Democrats for improving Trump’s original deal, even as the president took to the South Lawn to hail his administration’s success.
“The White House hasn’t invited House Democrats to their USMCA signing ceremony,” Pelosi’s spokesman said Wednesday, according to the New York Post. “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.”
Come what may, Trump now has another reason to brag heading into his re-election. Meanwhile, his impeachment trial could well end this week if Republican senators secure the votes to block witnesses.