USMCA: The 'historic' deal that Trump says replaces NAFTA

Trump said USMCA is "the most important trade deal we've ever made by far."

  • The new agreement is between Canada, Mexico and the U.S.
  • It's more of an updated version of NAFTA than a new agreement.
  • The deal includes changes to trade terms and policies in sectors like dairy, auto manufacturing and intellectual property rights.

In a last-minute agreement, Canada, Mexico and the U.S. have tentatively agreed to revisions of the 24-year-old North American trade deal. This new agreement, according to President Donald Trump, effectively replaces NAFTA with USMCA, which stands for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement.

Trump said USMCA is "the most important trade deal we've ever made by far."

"We have successfully completed negotiations on a brand new deal to terminate and replace NAFTA and the NAFTA trade agreements with an incredible new U.S.-Canada-Mexico agreement," Trump said at Rose Garden news conference, adding that "it will transform North America back into a manufacturing powerhouse."

The U.S., Canada and Mexico are expected to sign the agreement at the end of November, though it will require legislative approval from all three countries. U.S. lawmakers are expected to vote on the deal in 2019, and it's unclear whether it would pass if Democrats take control of the House next month.

Here are some key parts of USMCA:

Timeframe

(Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Donald Trump after a phone conversation with Mexico's outgoing President Enrique Pena Nieto on trade on August 27. The new deal was made just hours before the October 1 deal deadline.

The new agreement would take effect in 2020. Under the terms, the three countries would meet every six years to review and potentially renegotiate the deal, which would last 16 years, at which time the countries could agree to extend it.

​Auto industry

To encourage more localized car manufacturing, the new deal requires 75% of a car's parts to be produced in Mexico, Canada or the U.S. in order for automakers to avoid tariffs. That's an increase of about 12% compared to NAFTA.

In addition, nearly one-third of automobile manufacturing in the three countries must be done by workers earning an average production wage of $16 an hour.

​Dairy

Canada will open up its dairy market slightly by allowing American farmers to export about $560 million worth of dairy products. Canadian farmers criticized the move, but it's a general win for the U.S.

"The deal includes a substantial increase in our farmers' opportunities to export American wheat, poultry, eggs and dairy, including milk, butter, cheese, yogurt and ice cream," the president said Monday. "Those products were not really being treated fairly as far as those who worked so hard to produce them, and now they're going to be treated fairly."

Canadian officials had said the U.S. was at fault for producing too much dairy products.

Copyright laws

The new deal features stronger restrictions on copyright infringement. It says that internet service providers (ISPs) shouldn't be held directly responsible when their users or companies traffick in pirated content—so long as they cooperate with copyright owners and law enforcement.

The agreement says there should be "legal incentives for Internet Service Providers to cooperate with copyright owners to deter the unauthorized storage and transmission of copyrighted materials or, in the alternative, to take other action to deter the unauthorized storage and transmission of copyrighted materials," the agreement reads, adding that ISPs can obtain legal protection (or 'safe harbor') by "adopting and reasonably implementing a policy that provides for termination in appropriate circumstances of the accounts of repeat infringers."

Ultimately a win for Trump

Replacing NAFTA has long been a goal for Trump, who's called the longstanding trilateral deal a "disaster." And even though USMCA is more of an updated version of NAFTA than a completely new deal, the president arguably scored a few victories, and possibly some more supporters among American farmers and auto workers, by reaching the agreement just hours before Sunday night's deadline.

Still, USMCA will likely have little effect on the president's ongoing trade conflicts with China.

"We'll see what happens with China," Trump said. "We don't have a deal with China. There is no deal. They do whatever they want."

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Yale scientists restore brain function to 32 clinically dead pigs

Researchers hope the technology will further our understanding of the brain, but lawmakers may not be ready for the ethical challenges.

Still from John Stephenson's 1999 rendition of Animal Farm.
Surprising Science
  • Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine successfully restored some functions to pig brains that had been dead for hours.
  • They hope the technology will advance our understanding of the brain, potentially developing new treatments for debilitating diseases and disorders.
  • The research raises many ethical questions and puts to the test our current understanding of death.

The image of an undead brain coming back to live again is the stuff of science fiction. Not just any science fiction, specifically B-grade sci fi. What instantly springs to mind is the black-and-white horrors of films like Fiend Without a Face. Bad acting. Plastic monstrosities. Visible strings. And a spinal cord that, for some reason, is also a tentacle?

But like any good science fiction, it's only a matter of time before some manner of it seeps into our reality. This week's Nature published the findings of researchers who managed to restore function to pigs' brains that were clinically dead. At least, what we once thought of as dead.

What's dead may never die, it seems

The researchers did not hail from House Greyjoy — "What is dead may never die" — but came largely from the Yale School of Medicine. They connected 32 pig brains to a system called BrainEx. BrainEx is an artificial perfusion system — that is, a system that takes over the functions normally regulated by the organ. The pigs had been killed four hours earlier at a U.S. Department of Agriculture slaughterhouse; their brains completely removed from the skulls.

BrainEx pumped an experiment solution into the brain that essentially mimic blood flow. It brought oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, giving brain cells the resources to begin many normal functions. The cells began consuming and metabolizing sugars. The brains' immune systems kicked in. Neuron samples could carry an electrical signal. Some brain cells even responded to drugs.

The researchers have managed to keep some brains alive for up to 36 hours, and currently do not know if BrainEx can have sustained the brains longer. "It is conceivable we are just preventing the inevitable, and the brain won't be able to recover," said Nenad Sestan, Yale neuroscientist and the lead researcher.

As a control, other brains received either a fake solution or no solution at all. None revived brain activity and deteriorated as normal.

The researchers hope the technology can enhance our ability to study the brain and its cellular functions. One of the main avenues of such studies would be brain disorders and diseases. This could point the way to developing new of treatments for the likes of brain injuries, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and neurodegenerative conditions.

"This is an extraordinary and very promising breakthrough for neuroscience. It immediately offers a much better model for studying the human brain, which is extraordinarily important, given the vast amount of human suffering from diseases of the mind [and] brain," Nita Farahany, the bioethicists at the Duke University School of Law who wrote the study's commentary, told National Geographic.

An ethical gray matter

Before anyone gets an Island of Dr. Moreau vibe, it's worth noting that the brains did not approach neural activity anywhere near consciousness.

The BrainEx solution contained chemicals that prevented neurons from firing. To be extra cautious, the researchers also monitored the brains for any such activity and were prepared to administer an anesthetic should they have seen signs of consciousness.

Even so, the research signals a massive debate to come regarding medical ethics and our definition of death.

Most countries define death, clinically speaking, as the irreversible loss of brain or circulatory function. This definition was already at odds with some folk- and value-centric understandings, but where do we go if it becomes possible to reverse clinical death with artificial perfusion?

"This is wild," Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times. "If ever there was an issue that merited big public deliberation on the ethics of science and medicine, this is one."

One possible consequence involves organ donations. Some European countries require emergency responders to use a process that preserves organs when they cannot resuscitate a person. They continue to pump blood throughout the body, but use a "thoracic aortic occlusion balloon" to prevent that blood from reaching the brain.

The system is already controversial because it raises concerns about what caused the patient's death. But what happens when brain death becomes readily reversible? Stuart Younger, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University, told Nature that if BrainEx were to become widely available, it could shrink the pool of eligible donors.

"There's a potential conflict here between the interests of potential donors — who might not even be donors — and people who are waiting for organs," he said.

It will be a while before such experiments go anywhere near human subjects. A more immediate ethical question relates to how such experiments harm animal subjects.

Ethical review boards evaluate research protocols and can reject any that causes undue pain, suffering, or distress. Since dead animals feel no pain, suffer no trauma, they are typically approved as subjects. But how do such boards make a judgement regarding the suffering of a "cellularly active" brain? The distress of a partially alive brain?

The dilemma is unprecedented.

Setting new boundaries

Another science fiction story that comes to mind when discussing this story is, of course, Frankenstein. As Farahany told National Geographic: "It is definitely has [sic] a good science-fiction element to it, and it is restoring cellular function where we previously thought impossible. But to have Frankenstein, you need some degree of consciousness, some 'there' there. [The researchers] did not recover any form of consciousness in this study, and it is still unclear if we ever could. But we are one step closer to that possibility."

She's right. The researchers undertook their research for the betterment of humanity, and we may one day reap some unimaginable medical benefits from it. The ethical questions, however, remain as unsettling as the stories they remind us of.

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