“I’ll be terminating it within a relatively short period of time. We get rid of NAFTA. It’s been a disaster for the United States,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on the way back from the G20 summit in Buenos Aires. “That’ll be terminated so Congress will have a choice of the USMCA or pre-NAFTA, which worked very well.”
There has been much debate about whether a U.S. president can single-handedly effectuate the legal actions that would be needed to implement such a change in process.
NAFTA Article 2205 provides for any country to withdraw six months after notifying other countries in writing of its plans.
But Section 125(e) of the Trade Act of 1974 says tariffs enacted through free trade agreements will remain in effect for a year after termination or withdrawal, unless the president moves to accelerate the process through proclaiming tariff rates be restored to non-FTA levels.
But still, many trade lawyers believe the president cannot skip the standard legislative process and that Congress would have to pass legislation to implement the tariff changes.
With a House to be controlled by Democrats starting in January, that’s unlikely to occur.
Some say that if Trump submits a notice of withdrawal to Congress, it could result in a “zombie NAFTA” in which the U.S. is officially not a party to the agreement but all the changes effectuated through 1994 NAFTA implementing legislation, including lower tariffs, are maintained.