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Canada signs USMCA on sidelines of high-stakes G20 summit

FILE - National flags representing Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. are lit by stage lights at the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, renegotiations, in Mexico City, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Marco Ugarte

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – After much anticipation, Canada signed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement in Buenos Aires today on the sidelines of the high-profile G20 summit.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined U.S. President Donald Trump and outgoing Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto at a hotel to formally sign the trade agreement.

U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum remain in place, but a Canadian official says an advantage to signing onto the agreement now is an auto side letter exempting Canada of potential tariffs on exports of up to 2.6 million vehicles — well above current levels.

Today marks an important deadline for the trade pact.

A new Mexican president takes over Saturday, who might not honour the tentative deal struck by his predecessor.

Stability for Canada: Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the revamped NAFTA signed today in Buenos Aires provides stability for Canada’s economy.

“Free and fair trade leads to more and better paying middle class jobs for more people,” Trudeau told a news conference in Argentina. “And the benefits of trade must be broadly and fairly shared — that is what modernizing NAFTA achieves, and that is why it was always so important to get this new agreement done right.”

He says the new agreement lifts the risk of economic uncertainty that lingers throughout the trade renegotiation process.

Trump says the new deal is a model agreement that will stop auto jobs from going overseas.

He also says the agreement protects intellectual property rights and provides robust protections for digital trade and financial services.

“President, I must say Pena Nieto, and Prime Minister Trudeau, we’ve worked hard on this agreement,” Trump said. “It’s been long and hard. We’ve taken a lot of barbs and a little abuse, and we got there. It’s great for all of our countries. Thank you for your close partnership throughout this process.”

The signing of the trade pact is largely ceremonial, because it still needs to be ratified by all three countries before it can formally take effect.