President Donald Trump took a victory lap Monday after the announcement of a new North American trade deal, heralding the pact as “an extraordinary agreement” and “a new dawn” for the U.S. auto industry.
Trump touted the deal to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement with a new trilateral pact called the USMCA, for United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
The deal was reached with Canada shortly before a midnight Sunday deadline imposed by the Trump administration. The U.S. had threatened to carry out a bilateral agreement reached with Mexico in August if Canada didn’t join in.
In comments in the White House Rose Garden, Trump said negotiations with Canada had led to “very strong tensions” between himself and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Trump said those tensions had relaxed at “about 12 o’clock last night.”
The Rose Garden comments were also peppered with criticisms for Democrats, as well as international trading partners such as China and the European Union, who Trump said have treated the U.S. “so unfairly.”
Trump, a strong advocate for protectionist trade policies, credited his tariff proposals for the success of the deal. “Without tariffs, we wouldn’t be talking about a deal, just for the babies out there that keep talking about tariffs,” Trump said.
Trump also expressed optimism that the trade deal would pass a vote in Congress but added that “if it doesn’t, we have lots of other alternatives.”
Earlier Monday, Trump tweeted his congratulations to Mexico and Canada and praised the agreement as a “great deal.” The new trade pact was forged during several months of contentious negotiations.
Markets applauded the development. The Dow Jones industrial average surged, rising 200 points in afternoon trading.
Among the details in the agreement are requirements for 75 percent of auto content to be made in North America, up from 62.5 percent, and that 40 to 45 percent of the auto content is made by workers making at least $16 an hour. “That’s more than twice the average wage Mexican auto assembly-line workers made in 2017, according to a study from the Center for Automotive Research.
The three nations still need to sign the deal, which is expected before the end of November. Congress also needs to approve USMCA, which might not happen this year given the postelection lame-duck session and other pressing issues, such as keeping the government funded.
Trump said Monday he “just spoke” with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who leaves office Dec. 1, as well as Trudeau. The U.S. will send the new agreement to the two trading partners by the end of November before passing it along to Congress, Trump said.
Trump had initially refused to answer numerous questions from reporters about his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, whose candidacy has been threatened by allegations of sexual misconduct. Kavanaugh has vehemently denied all of the allegations.
When Trump allowed the questions to veer away from the USMCA, he lamented “the trauma” that Kavanaugh’s wife and children have experienced in light of the allegations, all of which surfaced in mid-September.
Last week, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., had called for Trump’s White House to order the FBI to investigate certain allegations against Kavanaugh for up to one week.
Trump later conceded to the requests for a federal probe, ordering a “supplemental investigation” into Kavanaugh.
“I want to make the Senate happy, because ultimately they’re making the judgment,” Trump said.