Trump says will formally terminate NAFTA soon

Mexico’s outgoing president Enrique Pena Nieto (L), US President Donald Trump (C) and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signed a new free trade agreement in Buenos Aires on November 30, 2018 — now the US Congress needs to approve it. (AFP pic)

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump said Saturday he will soon notify Congress that he plans to end the NAFTA agreement with Mexico and Canada in favour of a new regional trade deal, setting up a potential clash on Capitol Hill.

Trump, travelling home from a G20 summit in Argentina, told reporters aboard Air Force One that he would give formal notice to Congress on “terminating” NAFTA “within a relatively short period of time.”

That would trigger a six-month waiting period before the US could leave the pact — during that time, US lawmakers would be asked to approve the new deal signed on Friday with America’s neighbours.

Trump says the new pact — known in Washington as the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) — will help US workers, especially in the auto industry, and better safeguard intellectual property.

“We get rid of NAFTA. It’s been a disaster for the United States,” said Trump, who insisted that the North American Free Trade Agreement, in place for nearly a quarter-century, was a killer of American jobs.

“That’ll be terminated so Congress will have a choice of the USMCA or pre-NAFTA, which worked very well,” the Republican president said.

The signing of USMCA was a victory for Trump, following months of tense and difficult negotiations with Ottawa and Mexico City.

Trump said Friday that he did not foresee a problem with getting congressional approval, but some Democrats — who will control the US House of Representatives as of January — have expressed scepticism.

Nancy Pelosi, the frontrunner to regain her position as Speaker of the House, on Friday called the deal a “work in progress.”

“What isn’t in it yet are enough enforcement reassurances regarding workers” and the environment, she told a press conference.

“This is not something that we have a piece of paper where we can say yes or no to it,” said Pelosi, who added that Mexico had not yet passed a law on wages and working conditions.

The new deal also requires legislative approval in Canada and Mexico.