Trump took too long to get USMCA done: Former ambassador
U.S. President waited too long to get a new NAFTA deal done, according to a former U.S. Ambassador to Canada.
“I think, honestly, the President really messed this up,” former U.S. Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman told BNN Bloomberg on Thursday. “His whole trade representative team kicked this down the road.”
“Everybody knew this needed to get upgraded,” he added. “I know, specifically in working with the Canadians while I was still sitting Ambassador, they were having meetings with the President-elect and his team in New York saying ‘we’re ready. Let’s go. We’ll negotiate NAFTA and we’ll upgrade it.’”
The negotiations, which extended throughout much of 2017 and 2018, finally resulted in an agreement in principle between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico on Oct. 1.
However, as a result of the length of time it took representatives from the three nations to finally reach common ground on what Trump has christened the USMCA, he now faces the prospect of having to get the pact approved by a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. Republicans lost the House majority in the U.S. midterm elections on Nov. 6 but remain in control of the U.S. Senate.
Heyman says the Democrats will be seeking to address some issues.
“There are clearly some things that are of concern to them which may need to be amended in this deal,” he said.
Among those concerns, Heyman said, are the $16-per-hour minimum wage for auto workers set in the U.S. agreement with Mexico, environmental concerns, and, especially, the national security tariffs that remain in place on Canadian steel and aluminum.
“I know Democrats are concerned, particularly on the tariffs to Canada and the 232,” Heyman said. “I think the President has weaponized tariffs and he’s using that in a hostile way on allies and the like around the world. The question is: Will the new Congress let him have free rein with these?”
Despite those concerns, Heyman believes the deal will get done eventually, but he added that there’s no rush, given that the existing NAFTA remains in place until USMCA is signed.
“I think this gets actually really looked at in the middle of 2019,” he said. “I don’t think it’s the short-term priority of the Democrats in the next few months.”