After months of negotiations, representatives from the United States, Mexico and Canada on Tuesday inked a revamped version of their regional trade pact.
The signing ceremony in Mexico City was attended by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and US White House adviser, Jared Kushner.
The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) will now go to the countries' legislatures for final approval. The accord is meant to update the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a deal in place since 1994.
'Vast improvement' on original deal
House Democrats and US labor leaders gave their backing to USMCA after pushing for improved conditions for workers. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told a news conference that the modified agreement was "infinitely better than what was initially proposed by the administration."
The main US labor federation, the AFL-CIO, also called it a "vast improvement" on the original accord, which was signed in November 2018 but then got bogged down in the ratification process.
"For the first time, there truly will be enforceable labor standards," including inspections of factories, said Richard Trumka, the federation's president, whose endorsement will be crucial to boosting the deal's support in Congress.
Finalizing USMCA would be a major victory for US President Donald Trump, who made replacing the 25-year-old NAFTA a main campaign promise. Tuesday's signing came on the same day as Democrats unveiled impeachment charges against him.
"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 — Farmers, Manufacturers, Energy, Unions — tremendous support," Trump tweeted on Tuesday. "Importantly, we will finally end our Country's worst Trade Deal, NAFTA!"
Ratification of the deal would also be a win for House Democrats, who want to gain voters ahead of next year's elections by showing they can negotiate reforms and pass major legislation.
US officials said the negotiated revisions to USMCA included stronger environmental and labor standards that would benefit US workers, as well as increased wages and greater powers for unions in Mexico. The changes also remove requirements for a 10-year exclusivity period for biologic drugs [medication derived from or containing components of biological organisms, rather than having been totally synthesized — editor's note], which Democrats said would have benefited large pharmaceutical companies.
nm/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)