Understanding the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement
While on the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly singled out NAFTA – the North American Free Trade Agreement – as being one of the worst deals for Americans that he’s ever seen.
Blasting former President Bill Clinton, Trump said, “[Clinton] approved NAFTA, which is the single worst trade deal ever approved in this country," adding "NAFTA was one of the worst things that ever happened to the manufacturing industry and the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere, but certainly ever signed in this country."
Was Trump right? Or was it just bombastic campaign rhetoric? The answer, like most things, is complicated and depends on who you ask.
Nevertheless, the reality is that Trump fulfilled his campaign promise and NAFTA will be replaced by the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement or USMCA.
Background of NAFTA
NAFTA – in theory – was designed to set the rules of trade and investment between the US, Canada, and Mexico. It was envisioned by President Ronald Regan and the concept was simple: reduce trading costs, increase business investment, and help North America be more competitive in the global marketplace.
NAFTA was signed by President George H.W. Bush, Mexican President Salinas, and Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in 1992. It was ratified by the legislatures of the three countries in 1993, including the US House of Representatives on November 17, 1993, the US Senate on November 20, 1993 and finally signed into law by President Bill Clinton on December 8, 1993. It went into effect on January 1, 1994.
NAFTA 2.0 – USMCA
The USMCA has a total of 34 chapters, 12 more than the original NAFTA, which only had 22 chapters. In addition, the USMCA has a staggering 1,809 pages – 1,572 pages for the treaty, 214 pages for annexes, and 23 pages for side letters.
In reading the new text of the USMCA, many would conclude that the original foundational pieces of NAFTA will remain largely in place. But according to proponents of the new USMCA, it was designed to increase labor protections, improve access to certain markets, remove barriers to certain trade and bolster reciprocity. Let’s explore a few of the key provisions:
The USMCA will be revised every six years, allowing the countries to consistently renegotiate the trade deal and avoid another NAFTA-like scenario wherein a country could threaten to withdraw.
Implications for Stock Markets
As your financial advisor, I don’t know the answer to that question. I do note, however, that the day after the USMCA was announced, global markets advanced as did the Canadian dollar. The DJIA rose almost 200 points for a gain of 0.7%, the S&P 500 rained 0.4% and NASDAQ lost 0.1%. But one day does not make a trend by any stretch.
That being said, while the new USMCA will preserve a $1.2 trillion trade zone between the three countries, investors should keep an eye on how negotiations with China proceed. Because China is after all America’s largest trading partner.
In fact, according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (where you can read all 1,809 pages of the USMCA): “U.S. goods and services trade with China totaled an estimated $710.4 billion in 2017. Exports were $187.5 billion; imports were $522.9 billion. The U.S. goods and services trade deficit with China was $335.4 billion in 2017.”
That’s why I preach diversification