Mnuchin urges Congress to pass Trump's new NAFTA without changes

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinTrump to attend World Economic Forum in Davos for second straight year Trump names Mulvaney acting chief of staff On The Money: House GOP struggles to get votes for B in wall funds | Fallout from Oval Office clash | Dems say shutdown would affect 800K workers | House passes 7 billion farm bill MORE on Tuesday dismissed bipartisan criticism of the Trump administration’s renegotiated North American trade pact and urged Congress to pass the deal without changes.

Mnuchin told Fox Business Network that President TrumpDonald John TrumpREAD: Transcript of James Comey's interview with House Republicans Klobuchar on 2020: ‘I do think you want voices from the Midwest’ Israel boycott fight roils Democrats in year-end spending debate MORE expects Congress to approve an updated version of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as written and would terminate the original deal if lawmakers refuse.


“This is a great deal and there’s people who will want to make this a political issue,” Mnuchin said Tuesday. “People who think they can micromanage the deal for political reasons because they don’t want to support the president, you know that’s a bad strategy.”

Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Saturday signed the NAFTA rewrite, called the “United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement,” (USMCA) which was finalized in September.

While Trump and his top aides boasted of fulfilling a major agenda item, the deal will not be official until it’s approved by legislatures in all three countries. Democrats and a handful of Republicans have denounced the new NAFTA, threatening its chance for passage in Congress.

Critics say the deal makes few changes from NAFTA without including strong enough labor and environmental protections. Free-trade skeptics Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenKlobuchar on 2020: ‘I do think you want voices from the Midwest’ Warren calls for probe into Trump name change for consumer bureau Warren unveils bill to lower drug prices by letting government manufacture them MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersKlobuchar on 2020: ‘I do think you want voices from the Midwest’ Dem pollster says it's 'misstated wisdom' to assume competitive primaries damage presidential nominees Group launches campaign to 'Draft Beto' for 2020 White House bid MORE (I-Vt.) have vowed to oppose the deal, while Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioFormer Florida elections official Snipes sues to be returned to job Look out ‘losers’ — Trump focused on ‘winning’ The Memo: GOP frets as Trump shutdown looms MORE (R-Fla.) expressed concerns about a lack of agricultural provisions.

Trump has sought to ramp up pressure on Congress to approve the new pact by pledging to cancel NAFTA, forcing holdouts to choose between his deal or none at all.

“If it’s not passed he’s going to terminate the existing agreement. So, for those who think they can get a better agreement, this is a very, very good agreement," Mnuchin said. He touted updates to agricultural, automobile, intellectual property and financial serviced provisions.

“This is a big change and people who say this is just NAFTA 2.0 don’t understand the details,” he said.

The showdown between the administration and Congress comes as the White House seeks an end to growing trade tensions with China. Trump met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday and on Monday touted a tentative agreement with Beijing to ease tariffs.

Hopes of a trade truce fell apart Tuesday, though, when Trump warned China that he was a “Tariff Man” and would respond aggressively without concessions from Beijing. The stock market tumbled in response to Trump’s declaration and new indications of an economic slowdown.