Mexico says USMCA trade pact to be signed on Tuesday

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Tuesday that the revised USMCA agreement is 'infinitely better'.

     The USMCA, which would replace the 26-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), encompasses $1.2 trillion in annual trade across the continent [File: Carlos Jasso/Reuters]
    The USMCA, which would replace the 26-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), encompasses $1.2 trillion in annual trade across the continent [File: Carlos Jasso/Reuters]

    Canada, Mexico and the United States have reached an agreement on a new North American free trade deal and they will sign it on Tuesday, but the pact still needs the approval of US and Canadian politicians, Mexico's president said.

    President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the three countries had agreed on tweaks to labour, steel and aluminium provisions in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), after US Democrats pressed for changes, particularly to strengthen enforcement of new Mexican labour laws.

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    US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and US White House adviser Jared Kushner will take part in the signing ceremony at 1200 (1300 ET), a senior Mexican official said on Twitter.

    "On our end, there is now a deal. We're convinced that it's a good deal for Mexico, just as it is for Canada and United States," Lopez Obrador said, adding that the signing would happen in Mexico's historic National Palace.

    "In the case of the United States, there's a deal from the government, but we need Congress to ratify it," Lopez Obrador said.

    US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Tuesday that the revised USMCA agreement is "infinitely better" than what the Trump administration initially proposed, calling it a "victory for American workers."

    US House Democrats said the new changes ensured better protection for workers, the environment and remove key provisions that they said would have beneifted big pharmaceutical companies. 

    The USMCA, which would replace the 26-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), encompasses $1.2 trillion in annual trade across the continent. Its backers say it is responsible for 12 million US jobs and a third of all US agricultural exports.

    It needs to be approved by legislators in all three countries. US Democrats have been reluctant to vote to give a political victory to Republican President Donald Trump.

    And time is running out. US politicians from both parties say that waiting until next year could make it more difficult to ratify because the presidential election campaign - and perhaps impeachment proceedings against Trump - will be in full swing.

    Since negotiations to replace NAFTA first started in August 2017, deals have been imminent numerous times, only to be delayed by last-minute hitches.

    Leaders of the United States, Canada and Mexico signed the initial agreement more than a year ago but since then, Democrats controlling the House have pressed for changes to strengthen the enforcement of new labour standards.

    Trump, who blamed NAFTA for the loss of millions of American factory jobs during his 2016 re-election campaign and vowed to quit or renegotiate it, said on Monday that "a lot of strides have been made over the last 24 hours" on USMCA.

    "I'm hearing very good things. I'm hearing from unions and others that it's looking good," Trump told reporters at the White House.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency