NAFTA 2.0 is signed — but it’s far from finished

North American leaders formally signed their new trade agreement Friday, marking the end of 15 months of contentious talks between the U.S., Canada and Mexico — and the beginning of what could be months of fierce debate between the Trump administration and Congress.

The signing, which took place on the sidelines of the G-20 summit, shifts the onus onto each country’s legislatures to approve the agreement before it can actually take effect. And that could be a problem in the U.S., where some Democrats have already been opposing the labor and environmental provisions in the pact, now known as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement or USMCA.

Despite a push by a handful of Republican senators to vote on the agreement during the lame-duck session, procedural hurdlesmake it almost certain there won’t be a vote until sometime next year when Democrats are controlling the House. That’s jeopardizing President Donald Trump’s chances of fulfilling what has been a signature pledge of his presidency.

Trump expressed confidence Friday that the pact would sail through Congress. "It's been so well-reviewed, I don't expect to have very much of a problem," he said as he stood onstage in a hotel conference room next to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Trump called the trade deal “a truly groundbreaking achievement" before the three leaders sat down at a table and signed it.

But it actually remains far from certain that the agreement would pass the two chambers, particularly in its current form. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren on Thursday added her voice to a groundswell of opposition from Democrats in the House and Senate who have been complaining about the new deal’s labor standards and what they see as a lack of enforceability of new provisions. The liberal firebrand denounced the agreement as written, saying it wouldn’t prevent outsourcing or raise wages.

On the other side of the aisle, House Republicans have also launched their own wave of criticism, largely centered on new provisions that aim to prevent discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity.

The agreement is also under fire from the GOP in the Senate, where some free-trade-oriented Republicans say it limits trading opportunities rather than promotes them.

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