Update: President Trump’s “victory lap” press conference is going more or less as one would expect. Flanked by senior administration officials, he declared that the USCMA trade agreement was “the most important deal we’ve ever made by far.” By comparison, the NAFTA deal that it will probably replace was “one of the worst trade deals ever.” He touted the agreement as the fulfillment of Trump’s campaign pledge to sink NAFTA.
He also suggested that the deal would give the US more leverage during trade negotiations with Europe, China and other countries. He reiterated his claim that India had reached out to the US about the possibility of working out a trade deal (earlier, Trump advisor Larry Kudlow said that talks with the government in New Delhi were in their early stages). The US lost an average of $800 billion a year over the past five years due to trade deficits, Trump said, exclaiming “how dumb is that?” Instead, the US will create more jobs and produce more goods domestically.
“We will be manufacturing many more cars,” Trump promised. “And our companies won’t be leaving the United States, firing their workers and building their cars elsewhere. They no longer have that incentive.”
Trump also called the agreement “a very, very big deal for our farmers.” He said the U.S. negotiated more favorable terms for exporting dairy and produce.
Notably, he repeatedly rebuffed questions about Judge Brett Kavanaugh, which Trump brusquely refused to answer. Finally, Trump relented during a question about whether the White House had limited the scope of the FBI’s investigation, Trump again denied White House meddling, saying he wanted the FBI to “do what they have to do.” He later clarified that he instructed the FBI to do “whatever the Senate wants”.
In response to a question about the possibility that Democrats could sink the deal after the mid-terms, Trump said he would hope that, even if Republicans lost control of one or both houses of Congress, that Democrats would “do the right thing” for American workers. The president added that after the midterms, the White House will shift its focus back toward reaching a border-security agreement with Democrats.
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Almost exactly 25 years after then-President Bill Clinton signed Nafta into law, President Trump has delivered on his campaign promise to torch the free-trade agreement and replace it with something more amenable to US businesses and – crucially – US workers. The agreement will cover $1.2 trillion in trade between the three countries.
Just hours before a midnight deadline (a hard stop because it represented the last chance for outgoing Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to sign the agreement before handing power to the much more skeptical AMLO), US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland announced that the two sides had reached an accord, ending a tense period of negotiations during which Canada repeatedly threatened to walk away, something that probably would have led to the collapse of Nafta without a successor agreement in place.
With the easing trade tensions sending US stocks soaring back to just below their all-time highs, President Trump is seizing on the opportunity to take a well-deserved victory lap in the form of an 11 am press conference.
Watch it live below:
Shortly before the press conference was slated to begin, Trump economic advisor Larry Kudlow denied that there were any lingering tensions between Trump and Canadian President Justin Trudeau. While the Mexican peso and Canadian loonie rallied on the news, John Normand, head of cross asset fundamental strategy at JP Morgan, said Monday morning that he expects the loonie to outperform the peso in the coming months. He added that changes to the agreement are “modest” and not “transformational.” Other analysts said the agreement looks more like “rebranding” than “revolution”, though the Trump administration won key concessions that will likely increase the percentage of car parts made in North America, while Canada also agreed to open up its dairy market to US farmers. Canada walked away with some concessions; the new agreement preserves Chapter 19 of the deal, which allows an independent panel to resolve disputes among the agreement’s members, per the Washington Post.
But while Trump was quick to celebrate the deal on Twitter, it’s worth remembering that it must still be ratified by Congress. And if the ongoing confirmation saga of Trump SCOTUS pick Brett Kavanaugh has taught us anything, it’s that nothing is over until the president signs it into law.