Washington — Manufacturing and business groups welcomed the Sept. 30 announcement that Canada will join Mexico and the United States in a revised North American Free Trade Agreement, although they cautioned they wanted to assess the full details.
Manufacturing groups, including plastics and chemicals trade associations, had been pushing for Canada to be included, after the U.S. and Mexico reached a tentative deal Aug. 27 but it had been unclear if Canada would join.
Bill Carteaux, president and CEO of the Plastics Industry Association, welcomed Canada's joining the final, modernized agreement and said the group wanted to review the new pact in more detail.
The Washington-based American Chemistry Council said it too wanted to study the deal, which is being called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, but called it a step in the right direction. ACC noted that the deal appears to include some enhancements long sought by the chemical industry, including adopting regulatory principles jointly pushed by the North American chemical sector.
ACC said that duty-free exports to Mexico and Canada support 46,000 chemical sector jobs, and it said that U.S. chemical exports have more than tripled within NAFTA from 1994, rising from $13 billion then to $44 billion this year.
The National Association of Manufacturers said it's a positive move.
“Manufacturers are extremely encouraged that our call for a trilateral agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico has been answered,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “Today, there's a massive amount of goods flowing across North America, meaning our countries' economies are inextricably linked.”
Washington-based NAM said a united trade bloc in North America would help the three countries better address China's “cheating and unfair trade practices,” although it cautioned it wanted to review details of the pact.
“As we review the agreement text, we will be looking to ensure that this deal opens markets, raises standards, provides enforcement and modernizes trade rules so that manufacturers across the United States can grow our economy,” NAM said.
Similarly, the Washington-based Business Roundtable said having all three countries would be “critical for North American supply chains,” and it noted that it would assess the full text of the agreement.
The agreement must still be ratified by the governments of the three countries. A statement from the U.S. Trade Representative noted NAFTA remains in effect until that happens.
The U.S. statement said the agreement will “create a more level playing field for American workers” with improved rules of origin on automobiles, trucks and other products, modernize agricultural trade and better protect intellectual property. It said the agreement contains new chapters on digital trade, anticorruption, regulatory practices and provisions for small and medium-sized companies.
“When finalized and implemented, the agreement will create more balanced, reciprocal trade that supports high-paying jobs for Americans and grows the North American economy,” the USTR said.
In a White House news conference, President Trump defended his trade negotiation strategy and said tariff threats are bringing other countries to the negotiating table.
“Just for those babies that keep talking about tariffs, that includes Congress, oh please don't charge tariffs, without tariffs we wouldn't be standing here,” Trump said.
U.S. Trade Representatives Robert Lighthizer said he believed the agreement would “bring back jobs to America.”
“The USMCA will accelerate the manufacturing renaissance our country has enjoyed under President Trump,” he said.