Appearing alongside Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires, President Donald Trump hailed the ceremonial signing Friday of the new USMCA trade agreement and framed it as the conclusion of an at times contentious fight that has produced "great friendships" for the three leaders. The agreement includes a new rule, for example, that a auto will only be freed from tariffs if 40 per cent or more of its contents are produced by workers earning $16 (U.S.) per hour or more.
In an interview with CNN earlier this month, Trudeau indicated Canada still wanted the tariffs lifted before the new version of NAFTA took effect, but said the country wasn't at the point where they wouldn't sign the pact if the levies weren't lifted.
While Trump did not mention General Motors' announcement on Tuesday that it would lay off 15 percent of its workers and close five plants in the USA and Canada, Trudeau did, calling it a "heavy blow".
"Tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum are entirely inconsistent with the overall goals of the USMCA", said the letter, signed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and groups representing auto, chemical, grocery, retail and agricultural interests.
Brinkmanship over the final details of the deal continued through the eve of the signing.
Throughout the start of his presidency, President Trump has repeatedly threatened to withdraw the U.S. from Nafta, unless he could secure a better deal.
Both Trudeau and Trump have taken criticism over the new agreement.
Mr Trudeau added: "Free and fair trade leads to better jobs for middle-class people". He struck a more optimistic note on Friday, saying, "It's been so well-reviewed, I don't expect to have very much of a problem".
The deal must be ratified by lawmakers in all three nations, a process that is likely to require much of 2019. "That should be true for NAFTA and true for every deal we cut".
"A vast number of technical details need to be scrubbed and wrapped up", Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said.
American dairy and pork farmers have been particularly hurt by retaliatory Mexican tariffs. "The fact that this is an agreement in three languages adds to the level of technical complexity and it is on that level that we are just being sure that all the Is are dotted and all the Ts are crossed".
The deal is a reworking of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, which underpins $1.2 trillion in trade between the three countries.
The agreement was signed by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on his last day in office.
Trudeau and Trump discussed their plans for the G20 summit in a November 27 phone call, according to the White House.
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