July 1, 2020 / 5:11 AM / 14 days ago

The long bumpy road from NAFTA to USMCA

(Reuters) - After an long, arduous road the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA) took effect on Wednesday, replacing its predecessor, the quarter-century-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

FILE PHOTO: Trucks wait in a long queue for border customs control to cross into the U.S., at the World Trade Bridge in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico June 30, 2020. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril

The new trade pact’s implementation comes as the coronavirus pandemic wallops the global economy and international trade, squeezing the flow of goods among the three USMCA members - $1.2 trillion last year - to its lowest level in more than a decade.

Following are key moments in the history of the deal:

June 10, 1990: U.S. President George H. w. Bush and Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari endorse a new, comprehensive free trade pact between the two neighbors, ordering talks to begin. Canada join the talks in 1991, paving the way for three-way negotiations. The United States and Canada signed a bilateral free trade deal in 1988.

Nov. 3, 1992: Running as an independent for president in the United States, Ross Perot claims the proposed NAFTA would lead to a “giant sucking sound” of jobs rushing to Mexico. Bill Clinton wins the election, defeating incumbent Bush. Perot wins 19 percent of the vote to place a strong third.

Dec. 17, 1992: NAFTA is signed by outgoing Bush, Mexico’s Salinas de Gortari and Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, creating the world’s largest free trade area. The timing was, in part, aimed at making it harder for President-elect Clinton to pursue major changes; Clinton had endorsed the deal but insisted on environmental and labor side agreements.

Jan. 1, 1994: NAFTA comes into effect, and the Maya Indian Zapatista guerrilla army in southern Mexico launches an armed rebellion against “neo-liberalism” and explicitly against the free trade deal. The declaration of war against the Mexican government leads to days of fighting and dozens of deaths before the rebels retreat into the jungle.

Nov. 30, 1999: Tens of thousands of anti-globalization protesters converge on the U.S. city of Seattle, leading to widespread rioting coinciding with a ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization, which was seeking to launch new international trade talks. The protests underscore growing, if scattered, opposition to free trade deals like NAFTA.

Dec. 11, 2001: China formally joins the World Trade Organization, integrating the Asian giant more deeply into the global economy. Easing trade with China intensifies a trend that had been seen since NAFTA came into effect as the U.S. trade deficit soared to more than $800 billion by 2006.

July 16, 2004: Senior trade officials from Canada, the United States and Mexico issue a joint statement touting a decade’s worth of expanded trade in North America. Three-way-trade more than doubled to reach $623 billion while cumulative foreign direct investment increases by over $1.7 trillion compared to pre-NAFTA levels.

Jan. 1, 2008: NAFTA is fully implemented as the last of its polices come into effect. In sensitive sectors such as sugar, NAFTA stipulates that trade barriers would only gradually be phased out, which was designed to smooth economic shocks in vulnerable industries. By this time, trade within the three North American nations has more than tripled.

July 19, 2016: Billionaire businessman and political outsider Donald Trump formally clinches the Republican presidential nomination, winning the traditionally pro-free-trade party’s nod in part by denouncing NAFTA, calling it “the worst trade deal ever.”

Aug. 16, 2017: High-stakes talks aimed at “modernizing” NAFTA kick off in Washington, with both U.S. and Mexican officials aiming to conclude a new pact in early 2018 before elections later in the year in both nations might derail negotiations. A second round of talks takes place in Mexico in September.

Aug. 27, 2018: After several rounds of trilateral talks that fail to produce a deal, the United States and Mexico iron out bilateral differences and reach a deal to overhaul the trade pact. That puts pressure on Canada to agree to new terms on auto trade and dispute settlement rules to remain part of the pact.

Sept. 30, 2018: The United States and Canada forge a last-gasp deal to salvage a trilateral pact with Mexico. The deal must still be ratified in each country.

April 2, 2019: U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Democratic lawmakers will not take up USMCA unless Mexico passes legislation to protect workers’ rights.

May 17, 2019: The United States lifts tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and Mexico, removing a major obstacle to legislative approval of the trade pact.

June 19, 2019: Mexico becomes the first country to ratify the USMCA deal as its Senate votes it through.

Dec. 10, 2019: Canada, Mexico and the United States agree a revised USMCA to satisfy concerns by Democrats in the U.S. Congress over labor and environmental standards.

Jan. 16, 2020: The U.S. Senate signs off USMCA, following approval by the U.S. House of Representatives on Dec. 19, 2019.

Jan. 29, 2020: Trump signs the new North American trade agreement while on trial in the U.S. Senate on charges of abusing power and obstructing Congress.

March 13, 2020: The Canadian Parliament rushes through ratification of USMCA as the last of the three signatories.

April 2020: As the COVID-19 pandemic ravages the global economy, monthly trade flows among the three USMCA members drop to their lowest levels in more than a decade.

July 1, 2020: The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement formally takes effect.

Reporting by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Dan Burns

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