© 2020 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

U.S., Mexico And Canada Sign Updated Trade Deal

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Applause filled the presidential palace in Mexico City yesterday. Representatives of Mexico, the U.S. and Canada signed an updated version of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Once it's ratified by all parties, this deal will govern billions of dollars' worth of commerce. NPR's Carrie Kahn reports from Mexico City.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: It seemed like the officials from all three North American countries let out a collective sigh of relief, as they sat on a stage facing a packed audience of business leaders and politicians at Mexico's presidential palace.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARCELO EBRARD: (Speaking Spanish).

(APPLAUSE)

KAHN: Mission accomplished, declared Mexico's Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, to great applause. For Mexico, it was a mission that many thought couldn't be completed. Two years ago, President Trump was threatening to rip up NAFTA, dubbing it the worst trade deal in history, a move that would have thrown Mexico's economy into turmoil. Trade between the two countries tops a billion dollars a day, with 80% of Mexico's exports sent to the U.S. and millions of jobs dependent on that commerce. Robert Lighthizer, the United States trade representative, says all sides fought hard for a new deal.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROBERT LIGHTHIZER: The result, I think, is the best trade agreement in history.

KAHN: He says it has the most up-to-date provisions regulating digital and e-commerce in the world, types of trade that didn't even exist when NAFTA was originally signed 25 years ago.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LIGHTHIZER: And it's something that's going to make North America richer. It's going to make America richer. It's going to make Canada richer. And it's going to make Mexico richer.

KAHN: The pact also requires auto manufacturers to use more parts from North America and that a large percentage of vehicle production be done in a plant where the minimum wage is $16 an hour. The hope there is to stem U.S. and Canadian jobs from moving to lower-paid Mexican factories. A sticking point in the negotiations in recent months, though, was a move by U.S. Democrats to get tougher labor and environmental enforcement provisions. Mexico didn't want to let U.S. inspectors into their plants, but in the end, they signed on to allowing so-called inspection panels with representatives from all three countries.

Economist Luis de la Calle, who helped negotiate the original NAFTA agreement 25 years ago, says Mexican negotiators could have done better but were feeling under pressure to get a deal ahead of next year's U.S. presidential elections.

LUIS DE LA CALLE: Sometimes in Mexico, we minimize the leverage we might get in the U.S. and that maybe we - it would be wise for Mexico to use it more often.

KAHN: But he says the new deal puts an end to the uncertainty driving away much-needed investment in Mexico. Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador praised negotiators from all three countries and especially his counterpart, Donald Trump.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT ANDRES MANUEL LOPEZ OBRADOR: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "With President Trump, we have a really good relation," says Lopez Obrador. Christopher Wilson, a Mexico expert at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., says such warm talk from across the border is an odd turn of events.

CHRISTOPHER WILSON: Somehow, despite the - you know, the accusations and the tough rhetoric, both countries are finding a way to continue to work together and are even praising each other while they do it.

KAHN: He says it's an interesting and a strange moment in U.S.-Mexico relations right now.

Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Mexico City.

(SOUNDBITE OF YPPAH AND JOSEF PETERS' "INTO THE STRATOSPHERE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

We Need Your Help Now More Than Ever

WFAE mask

Our newsroom is hard at work covering everything from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic to the aftermath of the election, the race for a vaccine and our communities' fight to rebuild. But we can't do it without you. Support our local journalism with a donation of ANY amount, and we’ll send you a free WFAE member mask courtesy of AllDayMask.com of Monroe.