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4 Things to Know About the History of NAFTA, as Trump Takes Another Step Toward Replacing It

On Friday at the G-20 Summit, U.S. President Donald Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexico’s outgoing president Enrique Peña Nieto signed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Trump celebrated with a tweet hailing the new trade deal as the end of the “terrible” North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which has been in effect since Jan. 1, 1994.

That treaty, which President Bill Clinton signed on Dec. 8, 1993, was meant to “eliminate most trade barriers between the three countries,” as TIME phrased it back then. Friday’s signing, almost exactly 25 years later, was largely ceremonial — Congress still has to approve the agreement before anything actually happens — but it brings Trump one step closer toward fulfilling his campaign promise to do away with what he has called “the worst trade deal ever made.” Though the new deal leaves the actual terms of NAFTA “largely intact,” it would mark a symbolic end to an era.

In light of that moment, TIME spoke to Max Cameron, co-author of The Making of NAFTA and professor of Political Science at the University of British Columbia, and Jefferson Cowie, an expert on labor politics and a professor of History at Vanderbilt University, about what to know about the trade deal’s history.

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DylanThomas

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