President Donald Trump on Monday slammed critics of his restrictive trade policy during a press conference discussing the new trade agreement reached by the US, Canada, and Mexico.
Trump said his recent steel and aluminum tariffs as well as threats of tariffs on imported cars were a key reason the three countries were able to come to an agreement on an update to NAFTA that Trump is calling the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
“By the way, without tariffs, we wouldn’t be talking about a deal,” Trump said. “Just for those babies out there that talk about tariffs. That includes Congress. ‘Oh please don’t charge tariffs.’ Without tariffs, we wouldn’t be standing here.”
Trump launched the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement just days after taking office, and official talks kicked off in August 2017. Little progress was made during the first year of talks, but a furious push to wrap up the deal before the end of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s term at the end of November helped to break the impasse.
The steel and aluminum tariffs will remain in place, Trump said, to bolster the American industries. US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer did clarify that talks on the tariffs were ongoing.
Many economists have said Trump’s tariffs will push up costs for American consumers and business and ultimately produce a drag on the US economy.
In addition to the USMCA, Trump also credited the threat of auto tariffs for the European Union’s willingness to negotiate a new trade agreement.
“I announced we’re going to put a 20% tariff, could be 25%, on their cars coming in, and they immediately called and said we would like to start negotiations,” Trump said. “We’re having a successful negotiation. We’ll see what happens. Who knows?”
Trump also took aim at China, the president’s main adversary on trade. The Trump administration recently escalated the US’s trade war with China, imposing new tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods.
“And China wants to talk very badly,” Trump said. “And I said, frankly, it’s too early to talk. Can’t talk now because they’re not ready. Because they have been ripping us for so many years, it doesn’t happen that quickly. If politically people force it too quickly, you’re not going to make the right deal for our workers and for our country.”