Officials from Canada, the United States and Mexico signed an amended version of the new North American trade deal, called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (CUSMA), Tuesday afternoon.
The signing happened in Mexico City, with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland representing Canada.
Freeland thanked all involved for their work, saying negotiating the pact was an “existential challenge” for Canada but the outcome was positive.
“This is a win-win-win agreement which will provide stability for working people in all three countries for years to come,” Freeland said.
“That is no small thing.”
CUSMA was signed more than a year ago to replace NAFTA, but U.S. Democrats controlling the House of Representatives insisted on major changes to labour and environmental enforcement before bringing it to a vote.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who led negotiations for the country, credited U.S. President Donald Trump with the deal in a statement on Tuesday.
“Thanks to President Trump’s leadership, we have reached an historic agreement on the USMCA,” he said.
“After working with Republicans, Democrats, and many other stakeholders for the past two years we have created a deal that will benefit American workers, farmers, and ranchers for years to come. This will be the model for American trade deals going forward.”
Speaking at the ceremony Tuesday, he said the U.S. was invested in Mexico’s success.
His statement came just after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that Democrats and the Trump administration had reached an agreement on the terms of the deal. Speaking at a press conference in Washington, D.C., Democrats said they successfully demanded changes such as a committee to monitor labour reform in Mexico.
“There is no question, of course, that this trade agreement is much better than NAFTA,” Pelosi said, adding the pact is “infinitely better than what was initially proposed by the administration.”
Trump tweeted Tuesday morning that the revamped trade pact will “be great” for the United States.
“It will be the best and most important trade deal ever made by the USA. Good for everybody – Farmers, Manufacturers, Energy, Unions – tremendous support. Importantly, we will finally end our Country’s worst Trade Deal, NAFTA!” the president said.
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard also congratulated the negotiators for reaching a second set of agreements to answer U.S. concerns about labour rights in Mexico, and regional content.
“Mission accomplished!” Ebrard told the gathered officials.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Trump talked directly about the deal on Monday, Trudeau’s office reported, without providing further details.
Trudeau also said little when asked about the deal on Tuesday as he arrived for a weekly cabinet meeting in Ottawa.
“We are working very hard,” he said in French, when asked if there was an agreement.
The signing of the deal comes after years of negotiations and disagreements between the three countries, and within U.S. leadership.
The trade pact picked up some momentum after Mexico in April passed a labour-law overhaul required by CUSMA. The reforms are meant to make it easier for Mexican workers to form independent unions and bargain for better pay and working conditions, narrowing the gap with the U.S.
Democrats succeeded in tossing overboard a 10-year protection for manufacturers of new drugs, including so-called biologics, that had won reprieve from lower-cost competition in the original accord.
But Pelosi lost out in a bid to repeal so-called Section 230, a provision in a 1996 law that gives social media companies like Facebook broad immunity from lawsuits over the content they publish on their platforms.
Mexico and Canada agreed to a seven-year phase-in of the new standard for steel, industry sources familiar with the deal said. The aluminum demand was dropped, but with the caveat that it would be reconsidered in 10 years.
While the trade agreement is signed, it’s not yet in place.
A U.S. House vote is likely before Congress adjourns for the year, and the Senate is likely to vote in January or February. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the vote on the trade deal will likely occur after an expected impeachment trial in the Senate.
The Canadian government previously said it would to ratify the agreement at the same time as the U.S., but an exact timeline is currently unclear.
— With files from Reuters and The Associated Press