Trump takes victory lap after NAFTA deal

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President Trump on Monday took a victory lap after his administration secured a last-minute deal with Canada to salvage the three-nation North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), even as he predicted that Democrats in Congress might stymie the pact. 
Surrounded by top administration officials in the White House Rose Garden, Trump called the reworked agreement “the most important trade deal we’ve ever made by far.” 
{mosads}The president said it fulfills his campaign pledge to replace NAFTA, which he called “perhaps the world trade deal ever made,” and claimed it will transform the U.S. back into a “manufacturing powerhouse.”
“Throughout the campaign I promised to renegotiate NAFTA and today we have kept that promise.” he said during a news conference, calling it “truly historic news for our nation and indeed the world.”  
Trump claimed the deal validates his hard-line stance on trade and suggested it could improve the United States’ leverage in negotiations with China and the European Union.
“Without tariffs, we wouldn’t be talking about a deal, just for those babies out there that keep talking about tariffs,” he said. 
The announcement represents a significant victory for Trump, who has constantly railed against the quarter-century-old trading pact with Mexico and Canada.
Officials from all three countries announced late Sunday night that an agreement had been reached after Canada decided to join the U.S. and Mexico in a revised pact. The nations had a self-imposed Sept. 30 deadline to reach a deal.

But congressional approval remains uncertain, especially if Democrats take control of the House in the November midterm elections.

The president appeared to foreshadow problems in gaining approval, saying he is “not at all confident” he would get enough votes even though he said the deal should “pass easily.”

“Anything you submit to Congress is trouble, no matter what,” he said, predicting Democrats would say, “Trump likes it so we’re not going to approve it because that would be good for the Republicans.”

Speaking with reporters later Monday, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer expressed confidence the deal will eventually be approved.

“I think it is going to pass and I think it is going to pass with a substantial majority,” he said.

Trump claimed the deal validates his hard-line stance on trade and suggested it could improve the United States’ leverage in contentious negotiations with China and the European Union.

“Without tariffs, we wouldn’t be talking about a deal, just for those babies out there that keep talking about tariffs,” he said.

During the year-long negotiating process, Trump was able to divide Mexico and Canada while securing concessions from both countries. But he also handed a win to Mexico City and Ottawa by backing down from his threats to pull out of NAFTA entirely or forge ahead with Mexico only.

Stocks rose Monday on news of the agreement, a sign that markets have regained confidence following serious fears that the president would break apart the $1.2 trillion North American trading zone. 
The new deal will require that 75 percent of components of a car or truck be manufactured in the U.S., Canada or Mexico to qualify for tariff-free status under the deal. It also will require that a significant percentage of the car be produced by workers making at least $16 per hour, a threshold meant to raise wages in Mexico and undercut that country’s competitive advantage with U.S. workers while bringing more auto manufacturing to the U.S.
Canada also made concessions to its dairy program under the last-minute talks that is expected to lead to some increased U.S. exports of certain products to that country.
But critics of the deal said it made only incremental changes to the trade pact and that some new trade restrictions could make U.S. less competitive on the world stage. 
A boastful Trump pushed back that criticism, saying the agreement was much more significant: “It’s not NAFTA redone. It’s a brand new deal.”

Lighthizer also said the deal is “substantially better than TPP,” the 12-nation trade pact Trump exited after his inauguration that would have rewritten much of NAFTA.

 The revised agreement will be called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), a name Trump sought to make stick. 
“It sort of, just, works. USMCA. That’ll be the name that 99 percent of the time that we’ll be hearing,” he said. 
Trump affirmed plans to sign the agreement by the end of November, which would begin the process of congressional consideration. Lawmakers are expected to take a vote on the pact sometime next year.
The president said the politics surrounding his reelection campaign would throw a wrench into the debate in Congress.

“They might be willing to throw one of the great deals for people and the workers,” he said of Democrats. “They may be willing to do that for … political purposes. Because, frankly, you know, they’ll have 2020 in mind.”

Congressional Republicans and business groups, who have long supported NAFTA, both cheered the new trade agreement despite some having reservations about the president’s aggressive actions on trade.

“Thanks to President Trump’s vision and hard work, American families are poised to benefit from new, fair terms of trade with our neighbors in both Canada and Mexico—and from the resulting economic growth that will come with these better deals,” tweeted House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.)

Democrats and labor groups took a more cautious approach, saying they wanted to study the details to ensure the administration honored its pledge to protect American workers and enforce stringent environmental standards.

“Democrats will closely scrutinize the text of the Trump Administration’s NAFTA proposal, and look forward to further analyses and conversations with stakeholders,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)

The lengthy negotiations were marked by bitter tensions between Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Trump sought to turn down the temperature on their dispute during Monday’s news conference, saying the two now have a “very good relationship.”

“It got a little bit testy in the last couple of months, but that was over this agreement, and I understand that,” Trump said. “I think Justin’s a good person who’s doing a good job. He felt very committed to his people, and that’s what he did.”

The U.S. president said just last week he rejected an offer to meet with Trudeau at the United Nations General Assembly over their differences on trade, a claim that Canada denied.

The president’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, said “the relationships that we’ve been able to build with the countries established a lot of trust” that eventually resulted in a deal.

“The president demanded action and it was really in that spirit that we could all come together,” he said.

U.S. officials said Trump was closely involved in the negotiations, pushing back on the perception of the president as blustery and aloof.

Lighthizer said Trump would call him constantly to ask for updates on the talks and to pepper him with questions about specific provisions in the agreement.

“There is no president, I believe, that ever knew the details of an agreement like this president,” Lighthizer told reporters.

During his 78-minute news conference, Trump refused three times to answer questions from reporters who tried to ask him about the embattled Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

But eventually he returned to the subject, spending roughly 25 minutes sparring with members of the media about an FBI probe into sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh and the judge’s drinking habits.

-Updated 2:44 p.m.

Tags Canada Donald Trump Jared Kushner Mexico Nafta Nancy Pelosi Robert Lighthizer Steve Scalise Trade

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