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President Donald Trump speaks about the new North American trade agreement at Dana Incorporated, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, in Warren, Mich. (Associated Press) President Donald Trump speaks about the new North American trade agreement at Dana Incorporated, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, in Warren, Mich. (Associated Press)

President Donald Trump speaks about the new North American trade agreement at Dana Incorporated, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, in Warren, Mich. (Associated Press)

Samantha Putterman
By Samantha Putterman February 6, 2020

Trump says the USMCA is the biggest trade deal ever – but there’s been bigger

If Your Time is short

  • The USMCA, which replaces NAFTA, is the largest trade multilateral agreement signed by the United States. 

  • But there have been bigger trade deals around the world, notably a deal between the European Union and Japan, which covers 600 million people.

President Donald Trump touted the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, as the "biggest trade deal ever made" shortly after signing it into law.

His tweet built on past claims that the USMCA is the "largest," "most significant," "modern" and "balanced" trade agreement.

The revised agreement mostly updates NAFTA, which has been in place since 1994 and was previously the largest U.S. trade deal ever signed. The USMCA adds significant changes for the auto industry and implements new policies on intellectual property protection, the Canadian dairy market, and labor and environmental standards.

Trump overreaches by calling it the "biggest trade deal ever made." For one, it’s not a trade agreement from scratch; it’s building off of NAFTA. And two, this neglects larger trade pacts across the world. 

In 2018, the European Union signed a trade agreement with Japan, covering a quarter of the global economy and 600 million people.

Although the Trans-Pacific Partnership never came into force, it included the same three USMCA partners –– the United States, Canada and Mexico –– as well as nine other Pacific Rim countries and would have represented nations with 40% of global gross domestic product. Trump withdrew the United States from the pact his first week in office.

Then there is the mammoth 1994 Uruguay Round trade talks, which included the United States and 122 other countries, kicking off the World Trade Organization.

The initial membership of the WTO "accounted for more than 90% of international trade in goods and services," found the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. The WTO now has more than 160 members, including China.

Trump’s campaign pointed us to evidence that shows how substantial the USMCA is for the United States alone.

The latest International Trade Administration data shows that total U.S. trade with Canada and Mexico (under NAFTA) is the largest of any U.S. free trade partners. As a percentage of total trade, Canada and Mexico account for about 30% of U.S. goods exports and imports, according to a 2019 Census Bureau report on top trading partners.

Our ruling

Trump tweeted that the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, is the "biggest trade deal ever made."

The deal is more incremental than Trump describes. It updates NAFTA and introduces changes for the auto industry and the United States’ access to Canada’s dairy market. It also implements new policies on intellectual property protection, labor and environmental standards and digital trade.

In terms of U.S. trade deals, the USMCA replaces NAFTA as the biggest American deal. Overall, multiple other trade deals around the world eclipse the USMCA in terms of the number of countries involved and economic output. 

We rate this False.

Our Sources

Twitter, Donald Trump tweet, Jan. 30, 2020 

PolitiFact, Is the new NAFTA the biggest trade deal ever, as Donald Trump said?, Dec. 1, 2018

Office of the US Trade Representative, UNITED STATES–MEXICO–CANADA TRADE FACT SHEET Modernizing NAFTA into a 21st Century Trade Agreement, Accessed Jan. 31, 2020

World Trade Organization, The Uruguay Round, Accessed Jan. 31, 2020

New York Times, Trump Falsely Calls China Trade Agreement ‘Biggest Deal There Is’, Jan. 15, 2020

New York Times, Trump Signs Trade Deal With Canada and Mexico, Jan. 29, 2020

Vox, USMCA, Trump’s new NAFTA deal, explained in 600 words, Jan. 29, 2020

CBS, Fact check: Is Trump right that the new trade deal is "biggest" ever?, Oct. 2, 2018

Associated Press, AP FACT CHECK: Is Trump’s new trade deal really a landmark?, Nov. 30, 2018

Email interview, Zach Parkinson Donald Trump campaign spokesperson, Feb. 4, 2020

International Trade Administration, FTA partners - total goods, November 2019

Census.gov, Top Trading Partners - November 2019, Accessed Feb. 4, 2020

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More by Samantha Putterman

Trump says the USMCA is the biggest trade deal ever – but there’s been bigger

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