WASHINGTON—President Trump held a news conference Aug. 27 to announce what he called "one of the biggest trade deals ever"—a preliminary trade agreement with Mexico.
Trump said the new agreement would supersede the North American Free Trade Agreement, a pact to which he has been explicitly hostile since he began his campaign for the presidency.
"NAFTA has a lot of bad connotations, because it was a ripoff," Trump said during the televised conference. The new agreement, he said, will be known as the United States-Mexico Trade Agreement.
Outgoing Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto joined Trump via audio for the conference. Trump thanked both Pena and incoming President Andres Lopez Obrador for their help in negotiating the trade deal.
Trump provided no details about the agreement, but said he expected it to be completed in November. He was noncommittal as to whether Canada, the third partner of NAFTA, would be included in the deal with Mexico. It might be included, or the U.S. might choose to negotiate a separate agreement with Canada, he said.
"Canada has placed tariffs of about 300 percent on our dairy products, and there is no way we will put up with that," he said. "The easiest thing would be to put tariffs on their cars coming in."
Trump said negotiations with Canada would begin almost immediately, and also that he would soon call Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss a trade agreement.
NAFTA, which went into effect Jan. 1, 1994, has been controversial since its inception. The United Steelworkers union and other labor unions have decried the agreement's alleged displacement of jobs, while the auto industry insists NAFTA is crucial to a sound North American market.
"(A) diminished NAFTA endangers the success and competitiveness of our industry, reverses our manufacturing comeback, and places many jobs in the auto sector at risk," the Driving American Jobs coalition—including the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers—said in an October 2017 statement.
In May 2018—three months before Trump announced the new pact with Mexico—negotiators for the U.S., Canada and Mexico said that NAFTA talks would continue. This was greeted skeptically by Leo W. Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers International.
"NAFTA negotiators should take time to hammer out a good deal, rather than causing further damage through the continued outsourcing of jobs and production," Gerard said.