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  • Mexican Deputy Foreign Minister for North America Jesus Seade looks on as Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador shakes hands with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer during a meeting at the Presidential Palace, in Mexico City, Mexico December 10, 2019.

    Mexican Deputy Foreign Minister for North America Jesus Seade looks on as Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador shakes hands with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer during a meeting at the Presidential Palace, in Mexico City, Mexico December 10, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 10 December 2019
Opinion

The brand new signing ceremony, despite a version already been accepted more than a year ago, launched what may be the final approval effort to get the document ratified. 

A new version of the United States, Mexico, Canada Agreement (USMCA) was signed by top officials and representatives of the three countries Tuesday in Mexico city replacing the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

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The event took place at the National Palace and was presided by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and U.S. White House adviser Jared Kushner.

The brand new signing ceremony, despite a version already been accepted more than a year ago, launched what may be the final approval effort for U.S. President Donald Trump’s three-year quest to revamp the 1994 NAFTA.

“America’s great USMCA Trade Bill is looking good. It will be the best and most important trade deal ever made by the USA. Good for everybody,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday. “Importantly, we will finally end our Country’s worst Trade Deal, NAFTA!”

The first version of the deal was only ratified by Mexico’s Senate back in June but neither the U.S nor Canada’s government ratified it. Democrats controlling the U.S. House of Representatives insisted on major changes to labor and environmental enforcement before bringing it to a vote.

Intense negotiations over the past week among Democrats, the Trump administration and Mexico produced more stringent rules on labor rights aimed at reducing Mexico’s low-wage advantage, including verification of labor compliance at the factory level by independent labor experts.

I spoke on the phone with Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada and with Donald Trump, President of the United States. I thanked them for their valuable participation and support to approve the USMCA and for the honor to have it signed in our country.
 

“It is infinitely better than what was initially proposed by the administration,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told a news conference, adding that USMCA was now ready for a House vote.

In addition to the labor provisions, Democrats said they won the elimination of a 10-year data exclusivity period for biologic drugs from the agreement, which they feared would lead to higher U.S. drug prices.

Mexico included a last-minute revision for a tighter definition of steel and aluminum in USMCA’s automotive rules of origin to be “melted and poured” in North America. 

The Mexican Chief Negotiator and Deputy Foreign Minister Jesus Seade, who signed the deal on Tuesday, said some of the changes were reasonable but not necessarily “good for Mexico.”

The deal now needs approval by legislatures in the three countries before it can move forward. 

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