By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Mexico’s outgoing president, Enrique Peña Nieto, U.S. President Donald. J. Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signed the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) at a sidelines meeting during the two-day G-20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Friday, Nov. 30.
Notwithstanding, there is no guarantee that the USMCA will ever go into effect.
The new agreement, if ratified by the North American leaders’ respective legislatures, is intended to replace the now-defunct trilateral North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which went into effect in 1994.
The USMCA was hammered out between the three governments during a combative 15-month negotiation process following Trump’s decision to reject NAFTA in 2017, with Canada being the last to join the accord and even threatening to pull out at the last minute on Thursday, Nov. 29.
For Peña Nieto, the signing represents a final feather in his political cap as he prepares to step down after a contentious six-year term as president on Saturday, Dec. 1, when his longtime nemesis, the left-leaning Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), will take over as Mexico’s new head of state, after a landslide victory at the polls on July 1.
But while the U.S. president trumpeted the new agreement, which provides for more protection for labor, the environment and intellectual properties, along with changes in rules regarding origin of components and manufacturing for automobiles, better access for member countries to the traditionally high-protected Canadian dairy market, and a sunset clause that will require a review and renovation at least every 16 years, there are serious concerns that it will not be approved in the now-Democrat-dominated U.S. House of Representatives.
Many House Democrats have already expressed their disapproval of the accord, particularly regarding environmental issues and protections for U.S. workers, and for the last two decades, Democrats have consistently railed against NAFTA, which they claim led to a loss of jobs for U.S. workers.
Canada’s Trudeau is also still lukewarm on the deal, and brazenly confronted Trump on Friday, just prior to the signing, saying that the U.S. decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports led to job losses for both countries when General Motors (GM) announced plant closures and layoffs in Canada and the United States earlier this week.
Here in Mexico, where AMLO is due to take power on Saturday, there is also uncertainty as to whether the new administration will keep its commitment to the USMCA, even though representatives of López Obrador participated in the final stages of its negotiations.
Unless all three legislatures agree to the new accord, it will not take effect.