WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump signed the revised North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) into law Wednesday, fulfilling a campaign promise to rewrite "one of the worst trade deals" in history.
"Today we are finally ending the NAFTA nightmare," Trump said during a White House signing ceremony, calling the new trade deal a "colossal victory" for farmers, factory workers and other countries.
Much of the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) simply updates the 25-year-old NAFTA, with new laws on intellectual property protection, the internet, investment, state-owned enterprises and currency.
But the 2,082-page pact also includes significant changes in several key areas, including provisions designed to incentivize car production in North America and open Canadian markets for American dairy farmers.
It rolls back a special system of arbitration for corporations that has drawn bipartisan condemnation and also includes additional provisions designed to help identify and prevent labor violations, particularly in Mexico. Some of those changes were inserted at the insistence of Democrats, who used their control of the House to secure long-desired policy changes.
More car production in U.S.
NAFTA required automakers to produce 62.5% of a vehicle's content in North America to qualify for zero tariffs. The new agreement raises that threshold, over time, to 75%. The pact also requires 70% of a vehicle's steel and aluminum to originate in North America, with steel being both melted and poured on the continent.
For the first time, the new agreement also mandates that 40% to 45% of the parts for any tariff-free vehicle must come from a so-called high-wage factory. Those factories must pay a minimum of $16 an hour in average salaries for production workers. That's about triple the average wage in a Mexican factory right now, and administration officials hope the provision will force automakers to buy more supplies from Canada or the United States — or cause wages in Mexico to rise.
However, critics caution that factories may be able to game the rules by including some high-paid managers in their calculations. Automotive analysts also warned that the wage provision could raise costs for U.S. car companies and car buyers, slowing the auto market and weighing on economic growth overall.
Stronger Mexico labor rules
USMCA requires more protections for workers, blocking imports of goods made with forced labor, and setting up mechanisms to ensure that those rules are enforced.
In response to concerns of congressional Democrats, it sets up an independent panel to investigate factories accused of violating labor rights and stop shipments of that factory's goods at the border.
Mexico also committed to enact sweeping legal changes to combat forced labor and violence against workers, and allow for independent unions and labor courts.
Wins for U.S. dairy
The agreement gives American farmers some additional access to foreign markets, particularly in Canada. Canada agreed to open its market to U.S. milk, cream, butter, cheese and other products. In return, the United States expanded access to its market for Canadian dairy and sugar.
Democrats not invited
The trade accord marks a rare moment of bipartisanship, but the two sides aren't sharing the glory. The White House attendance list for the event included 71 Republican lawmakers but no Democrats, who say they weren't invited. Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, the only remaining Democrat to vote against both articles of impeachment against Trump, said through a spokesman that he was invited but couldn't attend. A White House spokesman didn't immediately respond to questions about the invitations.
This report contains material from Bloomberg News.