President Donald Trump has described the signing of a new free trade deal with Mexico and Canada as signaling “a new dawn” for Americans and the return of the country as a “manufacturing powerhouse”.
Speaking at a White House news conference on Monday, Trump said the new agreement – which is expected to come into effect in late November – will be the “biggest trade deal in United States history”.
But Trump added that the deal would still need to be ratified by Congress, a step that could be complicated by the outcome of the fall congressional elections.
When told he seemed confident of congressional approval, he said he was “not at all confident” but felt ratification would be granted if lawmakers took the correct action.
“Anything you submit to Congress is trouble no matter what,” Trump said, predicting that Democrats would say, “Trump likes it so we’re not going to approve it.”
Negotiators from Canada and the United States went down to the wire but were able to reach an agreement on a new free trade pact that will include Mexico, the governments announced late on Sunday night.
The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) updates and replaces the nearly 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which US President Donald Trump had labelled a disaster and promised to cancel.
The rewrite “will result in freer markets, fairer trade and robust economic growth in our region,” according to a joint statement from US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.
After more than a year of talks, and six weeks of intense discussions, the governments were able to overcome their differences with both sides conceding some ground, but both hailing the agreement as a good deal for their citizens in the region of 500 million residents that conducts about one trillion US dollars in trade a year.
Al Jazeera’s Heidi Zhou-Castro, reporting from Washington, DC, said the US is trumpeting this as a win for all three nations involved.
“This is the fulfilment one of Trump’s most important campaign promises, this is the president who prides in calling himself ‘the deal maker’, and this is a win for his ‘America First’ policy,” she said.
“He had long complained that NAFTA was costing US manufacturing jobs and that it was leading to this trade deficit with Mexico.”
Details still not out
Canada will open its dairy market further to US producers, and Washington left unchanged the dispute settlement provisions which Ottawa demanded.
“That is going to be a win-win-win situation for all three countries, that’s what we expect. The leaders of the three countries are saying they got the best deal that they could,” Al Jazeera’s Daniel Lak, reporting from Toronto.
“We need to see the details and that will probably take some time. Some of those are emerging from sources from the Canadian government, which is probably being cherry-picked to make the Canadian argument look the best, so far.”
WATCH: US, Mexico, Canada agree on new trade pact to replace NAFTA
This will allow them to sign the agreement before Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto leaves office December 1, the date that was the cause of the last minute flurry of activity.
Under US law, the White House is required to submit the text of the trade deal to Congress 60 days before signing – and officials barely made it by midnight.
‘China wants to talk’
In his remarks on Monday, Trump took a jab at China and said the Asian country was keen on holding talks, before adding that it was too soon for Washington to hold talks with Beijing about working out a similar deal.
“China wants to talk, very badly, and I said, ‘Frankly, it’s too early to talk.’ Can’t talk now, because they’re not ready,” Trump said Monday.
“If, politically, people force it too quickly, you’re not going to make the right deal for our workers and for our country.”
Trump hailed the power of tariffs he has imposed to bring American trading partners to the table, suggesting US tariffs on China have yet to exert enough pressure to force Beijing into making concession at the negotiating table.
“Because they’ve been ripping us for so many years, it doesn’t happen that quickly,” Trump said.
The Trump administration slapped tariffs on $200bn worth of Chinese goods last month and is threatening to impose duties on virtually all of the goods China exports to the United States.
Trump said signs of economic weakness in China and its slumping stock markets are proof of the effect US tariffs are having on the Chinese economy.
Still, Beijing has remained defiant, vowing to stimulate domestic demand to cushion the blow from any trade shocks.
“They’re having a much more difficult time now,” Trump said. “I don’t want them to have a difficult time.”