It’s been more than a year in the making, but the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) was finally signed Friday in Buenos Aires, on the sidelines of the high-profile G20 summit.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, U.S. President Donald Trump and outgoing Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto formally signed the trade agreement.
Pena Nieto and Trump proudly held up the agreement after it was signed, but Trudeau didn’t.
“The new North American Free Trade Agreement maintains stability for Canada’s entire economy – stability that’s essential for the millions of jobs and middle-class families across the country that rely on strong, reliable trading relationships with our closest neighbours. That’s why I’m here today,” Trudeau said.
The prime minister added that there is, “much more work to do, in lowering trade barriers and in fostering growth that benefits everyone.”
U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum remain in place, but a Canadian official says an advantage to signing onto the agreement now is an auto side letter exempting Canada of potential tariffs on exports of up to 2.6 million vehicles.
A new Mexican president takes over on Saturday, who might not honour the tentative deal struck by his predecessor.
The signing of the trade agreement is largely ceremonial, because it will still need to be ratified by all three countries before it can formally take effect.
U.S. lawmakers have already indicated they don’t expect to tackle the USMCA until after the new Congress is sworn in early next year.
The deal sets new rules for the auto sector, including a higher threshold for North American content and rules requiring 40 per cent of car parts be made by workers paid at least $16 an hour.
It preserves a contentious dispute-resolution system the U.S. dearly wanted gone, extends patent protections for biologic drugs and allows U.S. farmers a 3.6-per-cent share of Canada’s famously guarded market for poultry, eggs and dairy products – a concession that dismayed Canadian dairy producers.
According to officials details of the USMCA deal were being finalized right up until the night before the parties were to put pen to paper.
“A vast number of technical details need to be scrubbed and wrapped up,” Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said.
“The fact that this is an agreement in three languages adds to the level of technical complexity and it is on that level that we are just being sure that all the Is are dotted and all the Ts are crossed,” Freeland said Thursday afternoon, speaking on a hotel patio in Buenos Aires.
WATCH: The numbers and dates to keep in mind for USMCA
— With files from the Canadian Press