In a whirlwind 24 hours, the United States and Mexico have put together “a big deal” and “teminated” the North American Free Trade Agreement. Donald Trump held a press briefing Monday afternoon where he informed the public that now that a deal has been reached between the two southernmost North American nations, they can invite Canada to the table to hopefully reach a three-way agreement (which is totally in no way at all NAFTA).
To show just how tight he is with Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto, Trump gave the world leader a call on speakerphone during the briefing in the Oval Office. Because spontaneously calling someone on speaker while dozens of people are watching always goes well. Spoiler: it didn’t and now the awkward moment is a meme with Veep and Curb Your Enthusiasm edits.
This experiment is a success. https://t.co/IK1H6jLUTs
— Julia Louis-Dreyfus (@OfficialJLD) August 27, 2018
UM YOU GUYS it works with the Curb Your Enthusiasm theme song too, this is amazing pic.twitter.com/0P0Kkobcam
— Arlen Parsa (@arlenparsa) August 27, 2018
Welcome to the cold open for this week’s SNL.
— Matt Rosoff (@MattRosoff) August 27, 2018
If that seemed rambling and uncomfortable, the official video tweeted out by the president afterwards was just as bad. Trump praised the “terrific” and “fantastic” negotiators and declared that this deal would be “something that will be talked about for many years to come.”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 27, 2018
As bizarre as the briefing was, it also means that Canada better get to the negotiating table fast. Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland cut short her Europe trip, completely canceling a visit to Ukraine, in order to fly to Washington to get in on what Trump is calling the “United States-Mexico trade agreement” (not great branding for Canada). The president has encouraged Canada’s negotiating team to sign onto what is technically a bi-lateral deal between the other two nations by the end of the week.
The deal is the result of five weeks of trade talks between Mexico and the U.S. while Canada was forced to sit idly by and twiddle its thumbs. Now it looks like the North is going to be pressured to agree to a deal it wasn’t at all involved in making.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reportedly spoke to his American counterpart over the phone Monday (not on camera) and was positive about the progress made between the two other countries and said he is happy to work toward a deal that works for all parties.
Freeland was firm in a statement Monday about Canada’s position on making a deal. She said she was “encouraged” by the U.S.-Mexico talks but was clear Canada would not sign anything that would harm its own trade interests.
“As we have said all along, progress between Mexico and the United States is a necessary requirement for any renewed NAFTA agreement,” a spokesperson for the Minister said in a statement, “We will only sign a new NAFTA that is good for Canada and good for the middle class. Canada’s signature is required.”
Regardless of what Canada chooses to do, it looks like the deal between the other two nations is solid. Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray told the media that Mexico’s agreement is not dependent on Canada. It has been assumed that Trump is eager to get a deal signed before Mexico’s president-elect, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, is inaugurated on December 1.
The jury is still out on what this means for Canada. Opinions are flying over whether entering a mostly-baked deal is going to be good for our interests or disastrous. The U.S. is still threatening steep auto tariffs but it seems the Canadian government is going to remain firm on their trade conditions and maintains that Trump’s tariffs are unfair.
Things could move pretty quickly in the next week, so stay tuned.