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Trump's NAFTA replacement will be signed this week, Kudlow says

A replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement will be signed this week when US, Canadian and Mex...

Posted: Nov 28, 2018 12:08 AM
Updated: Nov 28, 2018 12:08 AM

A replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement will be signed this week when US, Canadian and Mexican officials gather in Argentina for the G20 summit, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Tuesday.

President Donald Trump announced the trilateral deal, known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, at the end of September and wants it signed before Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto leaves office on Saturday.

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The deal must still be approved by all three countries' legislative bodies. Rules on trade policy in the United States make it unlikely the pact will come to a vote in Congress before the end of the year, while Republicans still have control of the House.

The Trump administration has expressed optimism that the USMCA will win bipartisan support, but some Democrats are signaling reservations about the agreement, which contains key changes on car manufacturing and digital property.

"I have been a little dismayed that in the Republican-held Congress there has been so little oversight on the administration's trade moves," Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Florida Democrat, said Tuesday at an S&P Global event in New York.

"If (the USMCA) is signed, I think what you'll see is a robust set of hearings," she added.

Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell of New Jersey, who has made a bid to chair the House subcommittee on trade in 2019, made similar comments in Washington earlier this month.

"There are certainly some improvements in the USMCA over the previous NAFTA, but the jury is still out as to whether this deal meets my standard for a better deal for American workers," Pascrell said before a two-day International Trade Commission hearing on the pact.

Mexican and Canadian officials have said they would like Trump to lift tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum before signing the USMCA. But Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has indicated the tariffs wouldn't hold up the signing of the deal.

"We're not at the point of saying that we wouldn't sign if it wasn't lifted -- although we're trying to make that case," Trudeau told CNN's Poppy Harlow earlier this month.

American industry groups, including manufacturers, retailers and farmers, renewed lobbying efforts this week to urge the administration to remove the duties. Automakers have said the tariffs will wipe out the benefits generated by the USMCA.

The new trade agreement differs from the 1993 NAFTA in several ways, and includes a brand-new chapter on digital trade. One of the most notable changes has to do with the way cars and trucks are manufactured. For a vehicle to be free from tariffs, more of its parts will have to be made in North America and by workers earning at least $16 an hour.

There's no deadline for ratification, and Congress is likely to wait to vote until the International Trade Commission releases a report on the economic impact of the deal. The commission has until 105 days after the signing, or mid-March, to deliver its report to Congress.

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