U.S., Mexican presidents meet at White House to talk USMCA, without Canada

U.S., Mexican presidents meet at White House to talk USMCA, without Canada

U.S., Mexican presidents meet at White House to talk USMCA, without Canada

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump promised an absent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau some in-person presidential face time Wednesday as the U.S. commander-in-chief and his Mexican counterpart went ahead celebrating North America’s new trade deal without Canada.

Trudeau last week declined to join Trump and Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador at the White House, citing the challenges of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and this week’s pressing parliamentary business — not to mention the looming threat of renewed U.S. tariffs against Canadian aluminum exports.

Trump offered no hint of any such tensions before he and Lopez Obrador signed a joint declaration of solidarity during an outdoor Rose Garden ceremony under a sweltering summer sun.

Instead, “we’ll have a separate day with Canada — they’re coming down at the appropriate time,” the president said, declaring the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, the “largest, fairest and most advanced” trade deal ever signed, and deriding its NAFTA predecessor as precisely the opposite.

“We want to thank Canada also; I spoke with and will be speaking to the prime minister in a little while,” Trump said. ”We want to congratulate Canada, and the people of Canada, and the prime minister.”

Earlier Wednesday, Trudeau extended congratulations of his own, calling the agreement a win for all three countries at a time of serious economic uncertainty.

“I think it’s really important that at a time of economic strain and stress that we continue to have access to the world’s most important market. This is good for Canadian workers and Canadian jobs right across the country.”

The formal debut of the agreement, which took effect last week, has nonetheless been sullied by the U.S. trade representative’s claim that Canada has exceeded limits on aluminum exports to the United States established when Trump lifted national-security tariffs on Canadian-made steel and aluminum in May 2019.

Trump made no mention of the latest dispute in his Rose Garden remarks, and neither leader took questions. Trudeau, however, said the threat of renewed tariffs “is a little bit difficult to understand,” given the potential impact of such a move.

“The U.S. doesn’t make nearly enough aluminum to be able to cover its needs, particularly at a time when we want economies to get going again across North America,” he said in Ottawa. ”What tariffs would do would be to raise prices for manufacturers in the United States and put extra stresses on them at a time when stresses abound.”

Higher prices may be precisely the goal: the two U.S. producers that are urging the USTR to take action have ties to a Swiss metals company that holds the exclusive rights to sell Russian-made aluminum in the United States. China, Russia, India and Canada are the four largest aluminum producers in the world.

Lopez Obrador’s visit to Washington, his first foreign trip since being elected in 2018, has prompted widespread criticism at home for a leader whose campaign trafficked heavily in criticizing Trump. Since then, the leader known in Mexico as AMLO has been pilloried for his deference to a U.S. president famous for aggressive anti-immigration policies at the southern border.

With a U.S. presidential election now just four months away, it’s Trump who stands to benefit politically from a bilateral visit, experts told a Wilson Center panel discussion Wednesday — and if Lopez Obrador hopes to secure safe harbour from Trump’s unpredictable foreign-policy whims, he may be sadly mistaken.

“If he thinks that going to Washington in this moment … is going to insulate him or protect him from future actions by this president, especially in a campaign year — against tariffs, against some kind of other punitive measure — I think he’s fooling himself,” said Roberta Jacobson, a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico under both Trump and his predecessor Barack Obama.

“Witness the fact that obviously we have the discussion of aluminum tariffs vis-a-vis Canada right now, as we’re celebrating USMCA. This is not a president who necessarily says, ‘These are my new partners, I will not penalize them no matter what.’”

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer made a similar point, but not without twisting the partisan knife a little.

“Usually when Justin Trudeau leaves the country, it hurts Canada’s position on the world stage, so maybe it’s a good thing he stayed home,” Scheer said. “He has a perfect losing record when it comes to Donald Trump, so maybe we’re better off that he didn’t go.”

New Democrat trade critic Daniel Blaikie, meanwhile, is urging the federal Liberal government to spell out during a House of Commons trade committee meeting Thursday how it plans to protect Canada’s aluminum sector from the threat of an “arbitrary attack.”

“A second tariff levelled at an industry that is already hurting could very well be devastating,” Blaikie wrote in a letter this week to International Trade Minister Mary Ng. “The current global pandemic only makes matters worse.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 8, 2020.

— Follow James McCarten on Twitter @CdnPressStyle

James McCarten, The Canadian Press

USMCA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An x-ray tech demonstrates the new equipment in use. (Photo Submitted)
New diagnostic equipment now operational at Sylvan Lake AACS

In August it was announced that Stephen and Jacqueline Wuori donated $850,000 to AACS

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, which causes COVID-19, emerge from the surface of cells isolated from a patient in the U.S. and cultured in a lab in a 2020 electron microscope image. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories
Alberta adds 463 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

The central zone has 818 active cases

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta identifies 573 new COVID-19 cases, 13 deaths on Saturday

There are currently 9,727 active cases of the virus in the province

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Three new COVID-19 deaths in Central zone, Alberta under 10,000 active cases

The Central zone sits at 849 active cases, with 52 people in hospital and 10 in the ICU.

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

Red Fraggle, one of Jim Henson Company’s Fraggle Rock characers, is shown at Time To Play Holiday Show, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010, in New York. The Jim Henson Company says production has officially started in Calgary on a reboot of the original 1980s children’s puppet series, which was filmed in Toronto.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mark Lennihan
‘Fraggle Rock’ children’s puppet series reboot starts production in Calgary

A spokesperson says the new series will stream on Apple TV plus

Black Press file photo
Wetaskiwin RCMP investigate fatal pedestrian collision

A 37-year-old man from Maskwacis has died in hospital as a result of his injuries.

A registered nurse prepares a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. Yukon’s Minister of Community Services, John Streiker, says he’s outraged that a couple from outside the territory travelled to a remote community this week and received doses of COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan-POOL
Couple charged after travelling to Yukon to get COVID-19 vaccine

The maximum fine under the emergency measures act is $500, and up to six months in jail

Metis Nation of B.C. President Clara Morin Dal Col poses in this undated handout photo. The Metis Nation of B.C. says Dal Col has been suspended from her role as president. The Metis Nation of B.C. says Dal Col has been suspended from her role as president. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Metis Nation of B.C. *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Metis Nation of B.C. suspends president, citing ‘breach’ of policies, procedures

Vice-president Lissa Smith is stepping in to fill the position on an acting basis

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks in the in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Payette shouldn’t get same benefits as other ex-governors general: O’Toole

Former governors general are entitled to a pension and also get a regular income paid to them for the rest of their lives

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Blackfalds RCMP investigate fatal collision

Preliminary investigation revealed a south bound pickup truck collided with an eastbound car

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

Most Read