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What’s with the new NAFTA name?

U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement
Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
“It has a good ring to it.”
  • Ana Campoy
By Ana Campoy

Deputy editor, global finance and economics

This article is more than 2 years old.

One of the biggest qualms that Donald Trump had with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was its name.

So, it’s no surprise that the revised version of the deal reached Sunday is called something else: the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA.

“It has a good ring to it,” Trump said at a press conference.

He appears to be alone in that assessment. The awkward acronym—even worse for French-speaking Canadians, who would refer to it as AEUMC—instantly became the butt of jokes. (For the time being, Mexican officials are using #USMCA in their tweets about the agreement rather than a Spanish version.)

Comedian Stewart Reynolds, aka Brittlestar, joked that alternatives proposed by Canadian negotiators were “NAFTA 2: Faster and Furiouser” or the “Freeland Awakens,” a reference to both the Star Wars franchise and Canadian global affairs minister Chrystia Freeland.

Others found USMCA to be catchy, like the Village People song.

The new name also raised some practical questions. For example, how do you avoid confusion with the United States Motorcycle Coaching Association and the United States Minority Contractors Association, which already use that acronym?

And, how do you pronounce it?

Of course, many who answered the Twitter poll had a simple answer: NAFTA.

Jokes aside, the new moniker speaks to the protectionist attitudes at the core of the president’s agenda. “Free trade” is no longer in the title. The new name also puts the US first, literally.

The only reason there is a new deal is because Trump was unhappy with the original, and it took concessions to get him to agree to USMCA. Though the agreement is being hailed as a good outcome by many observers, because it preserves the three-way-deal, it also contains some provisions, like stricter rules of origin, that backtrack on free trade.

But to Mexican economy secretary Ildefonso Guajardo, who also had to juggle Trump’s more outlandish NAFTA demands—changing the name seemed like a minor concession.

Trump, for his part, said at a press conference that the revised NAFTA will be called USMCA at least “99% of the time.” The other 1% apparently includes the text of the new agreement, which still refers to itself as NAFTA in some passages.

Heather Timmons contributed to this story.

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