Trump signs NAFTA replacement deal ahead of G20 summit

US President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sign a new free trade agreement in Buenos Aires

President Donald Trump signed a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada at a ceremony Thursday in Buenos Aires, Argentina, predicting it would be "the envy of nations all around the world".

"Battles sometimes make great friendships", Trump said, looking to put a positive gloss on his fraught relationship with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Noting this week's announcement by top North American automaker General Motors to close several factories in Canada and the United States, Trudeau lamented the factory shutdowns "are a heavy blow".

Inked by the North American leaders on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, the deal, formally called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) in the US, comes after more than a year of negotiations.

Trudeau's readout on the same call also mentioned lifting the tariffs the US imposed on steel and aluminum.

On Saturday, he will meet with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to address the trade war triggered by Trump's insistence on China ending what he says have been decades of unfair trade practices.

President Donald Trump is hailing a revised North American trade deal as if nothing existed before it.

'The new agreement will assure a new prosperity, ' he added.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau still had a few barbs of his own on November 30.

"The new agreement secures strong outcomes for farmers, ranchers, businesses, and workers across North America, including in areas such as auto manufacturing and intellectual property".

"I don't expect to have much of a problem", Trump said during the ceremony.

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In March, Trump - who has has repeatedly called NAFTA "the worst trade deal ever" - tweeted that the steel and aluminum levies would "only come off if new & fair NAFTA agreement is signed".

The side letters left unchanged the overall quota of autos (2.6 million units annually for each country) and auto parts (US$108-billion for Mexico and $32.4-billion annually for Canada) that the countries will be allowed to send to the United States without paying a potential 25-per-cent tariff.

The deal also must be ratified by lawmakers in all three countries.

Trump, who arrived in Buenos Aires late Thursday, barreled into the two-day meeting by announcing via Twitter that he was canceling a planned meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin over Russia's seizure of Ukrainian vessels.

According to Hansen-Kuhn, "Legislatures in all three countries should insist that negotiators go back to the drawing board or reject this new NAFTA all together". The longstanding trilateral deal was roundly criticized by the U.S. protectionist right, as well as the anti-globalization left, particularly for the damage that eliminating tariffs did to the United States auto industry.

Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, has argued that the new requirements for auto production actually restrict trade and that the administration should lift the tariffs on steel and aluminum.

If approved, it would likely take effect around the start of January 2020.

But Canada's refusal to sign the deal with the tariffs in place softened this week, said one insider: "At the end of the day, removing the uncertainty from the rest of the economy is too important to pass up".

It's true that when the deal was reached, the Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, praised Trump for making progress.

Last year, Rubio said any new trade agreement should increase "oversight and enforcement" of illegal trade practices and that Mexico should have to raise its minimum labor and environmental standards to "limit excessive and unfair production cost advantages" over USA farmers.

The agreement requires that 75 percent of each vehicle granted duty-free treatment be made in North America, up from 62.5 percent in the current treaty, and requires a substantial amount of manufacturing be performed by workers earning at least $16 per hour.

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