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

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinTrump phoned bank CEOs as stock market plunged Wednesday: report The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Trump pressured Mnuchin on labeling China a currency manipulator: report 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 TrumpO'Rourke: Trump driving global, U.S. economy into recession Manchin: Trump has 'golden opportunity' on gun reforms Objections to Trump's new immigration rule wildly exaggerated 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.

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“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 WarrenPossible GOP challenger says Trump doesn't doesn't deserve reelection, but would vote for him over Democrat Joe Biden faces an uncertain path The Memo: Trump pushes back amid signs of economic slowdown MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersJoe Biden faces an uncertain path Bernie Sanders vows to go to 'war with white nationalism and racism' as president Biden: 'There's an awful lot of really good Republicans out there' MORE (I-Vt.) have vowed to oppose the deal, while Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioTrump moves forward with F-16 sale to Taiwan opposed by China The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Trump crosses new line with Omar, Tlaib, Israel move 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.