Trump says he'll give Congress notice of Nafta exit

US President Donald Trump said he would soon tell Congress of plans to terminate the existing North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), a move that would give lawmakers a six-month window to ratify a new regional trade pact signed on Friday between the US, Canada and Mexico.

"I will be formally terminating Nafta shortly," Trump told reporters late Saturday aboard Air Force One as he returned from the Group of 20 summit in Argentina. "So Congress will have a choice" between the new deal, known as the USMCA, or potentially no continental trade deal at all.

The threat, if enacted, would effectively remove a safety net from under the new trade pact’s journey through Congress. Even though it was signed by leaders, the deal still needs to be ratified by lawmakers in the three countries.

In the US, it will almost certainly be taken up by the next Congress, where Democrats will have a majority in the House starting in January. Some Democrats are warning they may not be satisfied by the terms.

Trump’s statement may also be a bluff – or prove harder than he thinks. Under terms of the existing 1994 Nafta pact, the president can give six-months’ notice of withdrawal, though it’s not binding. US lawmakers have, however, said Congress would still need to repeal Nafta’s legislation to fully kill it.

Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and outgoing Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto signed an authorisation for the deal on Friday morning in Argentina on the sidelines of the G-20, with their ministers signing it shortly after.

Trump announced his intentions on Nafta hours after meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping for dinner in Buenos Aires and reaching a truce in their escalating trade war.

"We get rid of Nafta," Trump said. "It’s been a disaster for the United States. It’s caused us tremendous amounts of unemployment and loss and company loss and everything else."

Some US lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, have called for changes to the new regional pact inked on Friday, though Trump’s trade czar has expressed confidence it will pass.

"The negotiations are not going to be reopened, right? The agreement’s been signed. We still have to put together an implementing bill, so there are things that we can do," US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told reporters Friday in Buenos Aires.

He said he was in talks already with Democrats, and appeared unfazed. "We’ll get the support of a lot of Democrats, a very high number of Democrats. Absolutely, just no doubt about it."

Pelosi view

On Friday, Trump expressed optimism about getting the deal blessed by US lawmakers. "I look forward to working with members of Congress," he said. "It’s been so well reviewed I don’t expect to have much of a problem."

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House, called the agreement "a work in progress" in a statement released on Friday evening. "We are waiting to see enforcement provisions relating to workers and the environment," she said.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took office as Mexico’s president on Saturday; his Morena party, which with its allies holds a majority in Mexico’s Senate, could also seek revisions.

Incoming Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, hosting a dinner for American visitors at Lopez Obrador’s inauguration, declined to comment on the news Saturday night.

Trudeau has a majority in Canada’s House of Commons, leaving a clear path to pass a deal, but faces an election in October.

* Sign up to Fin24's top news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO FIN24 NEWSLETTER

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
ZAR/USD
15.11
(+0.01)
ZAR/GBP
20.23
(-0.03)
ZAR/EUR
18.03
(-0.09)
ZAR/AUD
11.12
(+0.04)
ZAR/JPY
0.14
(-0.04)
Gold
1809.17
(+0.06)
Silver
23.29
(-0.25)
Platinum
965.00
(+0.65)
Brent Crude
48.73
(+1.57)
Palladium
2362.17
(+2.23)
All Share
57742.19
(-0.03)
Top 40
52940.79
(-0.20)
Financial 15
11641.10
(-0.29)
Industrial 25
79835.50
(-0.36)
Resource 10
52605.42
(+0.07)
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes morningstar logo
Company Snapshot
Voting Booth
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes, and I've gotten it.
22% - 338 votes
No, I did not.
51% - 791 votes
My landlord refused
27% - 427 votes
Vote