WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said on Monday that the new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico is the “most important” such pact in US history.
“We have negotiated this new agreement based on the principle of fairness and reciprocity,” Trump said at a Rose Garden press conference. “To me, it’s the most important word in trade, because we have been treated so unfairly by so many nations.”
The president also criticized – once again – the North American Free Trade Agreement as “perhaps the worst trade deal ever made.”
“We’re going to transform North America into a manufacturing powerhouse,” said Trump, adding that “Throughout the campaign, I promised to renegotiate NAFTA, and today we have kept that promise.”
The president called the new pact “the most modern, up-to-date, and balanced” trade deal in American history, adding that it provides “the most advanced protections for workers ever developed.”
The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which was finally reached late Sunday night, is designed to replace NAFTA, which entered into force in 1994.
It is expected that the new USMCA will be formally ratified by the leaders of the three countries in late November.
While touting the new pact, Trump said that tariffs on steel and aluminum that apply to Mexico and Canada will remain in place awaiting an alternative, among which are the possibility of imposing “quotas.”
The president justified keeping the tariffs in place on those metals, calling it a basic element in “protecting” the US steel industry.
The US government has levied 25 percent steel tariffs and 15 percent aluminum tariffs on its trade partners, although Canada and Mexico were exempted from those tariffs while NAFTA was being renegotiated, although at the beginning of the summer, the administration decided to impose them on the two US neighbors, too.
When he was asked about what he felt his greatest concession was in making the agreement, Trump said it was probably making the deal at all.
He also mocked the “babies out there” – including certain lawmakers – who have complained about the tariffs he ordered imposed on other nations. “We wouldn’t be here without tariffs,” Trump said.
Looking beyond the USMCA, Trump warned the rest of the US trade partners with whom his administration has economic disputes about the basic thrust of his trade policy, saying that it is a “privilege” for nations like China and Japan, as well as the European Union, to trade with the US.
NAFTA covers $1.2 trillion in annual trade among the three partners, but renegotiation of its terms has been under way for months, with Trump having called that deal a “disaster” for the US and vowing to replace it with a “better” deal.
In late August, the US and Mexico reached a preliminary bilateral accord, although Canada was not included in that arrangement.