Donald Trump delivered on one key campaign promise this morning while attending the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires — remaking NAFTA. At the end of a lengthy ceremony, Trump signed the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) along with Enrique Peña Nieto and Justin Trudeau, formally ending a trade standoff that has dragged out for more than a year. However, it’s not yet mission accomplished:
JUST IN: Pres. Trump, Canadian PM Trudeau and Mexican Pres. Pena Nieto sign revised trade pact — the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement — at the G-20 summit in Argentina. https://t.co/fLHQ3e08si pic.twitter.com/j1TCVDAy7r
— ABC News (@ABC) November 30, 2018
President Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signed the new U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement — or USMCA — in Buenos Aires Friday, using the backdrop of the G-20 Summit to resolve a trade dispute between America and its closest neighbors.
“This has been a battle, and battles sometimes make great friendships,” Trump said at the start of the signing ceremony.
Saying all three countries will benefit from the deal, Trump said of the USMCA, “It is probably the largest trade deal ever made.”
With the formalities concluded, the Trump administration has to work with Congress to get the treaty made into law. Trade treaties don’t go through a ratification process, but instead are passed into statutory law, which requires both chambers of Congress to accomplish. Now that Democrats have taken over the House, that means Nancy Pelosi will have a lot to say as to how — or whether — Trump’s signature trade achievement survives.
Even before the election, Chuck Schumer had warned that Democrats might not be entirely satisfied with the USMCA in its present form. With a potential filibuster in hand, Schumer certainly had some leverage in working out the final legislative version. With the House majority, however, Pelosi has more room to dictate the language and force Senate Republicans into compromises. That might take the form of the core language itself or in side concessions on related issues. Many Democrats never liked NAFTA anyway, so the new agreement has at least the potential for a pro forma approach, but Pelosi will be under pressure to produce immediate results after her fight to retain control of the House Democratic caucus. She’ll want to extract as many concessions as she can before confirming a big Trump victory on the international stage.
Today’s ceremony included an odd moment that didn’t make Mexicans very happy. Peña Nieto awarded his nation’s highest honor for foreigners to Jared Kushner for his work on the treaty:
El presidente Enrique Peña Nieto entrega en Buenos Aires Argentina, el reconocimiento del Orden del Águila Azteca a Jared Kushner, por su contribución a la firma del T-MEC. pic.twitter.com/54pCUAvXqO
— Noticieros Televisa (@NTelevisa_com) November 30, 2018
That went over like the proverbial gaseous emission in a place of worship:
Criticism of the outgoing president awarding Kushner with the Order of the Aztec Eagle has been swift and harsh. Noted Mexican historian Enrique Krauze took to Twitter and called the move a “supreme act of humiliation and cowardice.”
Mexican actor Gael García Bernal tweeted that bestowing the prize to Kushner denigrates the honor and is a tremendous shame. …
Analyst Carlos Bravo Regidor of the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics in Mexico City says it is a telling final act for the outgoing leader, who he says has blatantly ignored the needs and will of the Mexican people throughout his six-year term.
“It is the ultimate Peña: He is finished, defeated, humiliated, but he still doesn’t care and offers this award to Kushner to almost show it off,” says Bravo Regidor.
It calls into question just how enthusiastic incoming president Andrés Manuel López Obrador will be in implementing USMCA too, if this poisons the well any further.