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Sorry, Trump Most Probably Signed The US-Mexico-Canada Trade Deal In The Correct Place

Yes, Trump signing a document in the right place is a news story in 2018.

Posted on December 5, 2018, at 5:48 a.m. ET

Last week, the leaders of the US, Mexico, and Canada — Presidents Donald Trump and Enrique Peña Nieto, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — signed the United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement (USMCA), a trade deal to replace NAFTA.

Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images

A signing ceremony took place on the margins of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires. The agreement came after months of fraught and often ill-tempered negotiations.

PM Justin Trudeau of Canada acted so meek and mild during our @G7 meetings only to give a news conference after I left saying that, “US Tariffs were kind of insulting” and he “will not be pushed around.” Very dishonest & weak. Our Tariffs are in response to his of 270% on dairy!

Trump signed the documents with a big black felt marker. The other leaders used pens.

Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images

There was much confusion at the ceremony after Trudeau didn’t follow Trump and Peña Nieto in raising a copy of the agreement for the cameras.

Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images

This prompted some to speculate that Trump had signed Trudeau's copy of the agreement in the wrong place. A video of this apparent mistake went massively viral on Twitter.

There's more. There were three copies of the new NAFTA deal to sign. During the signing ceremony, President Trump appears to sign in the wrong place on one of them. This is the exact moment everyone realized, individually with their reactions, including Prime Minister Trudeau.

Footage of the signing ceremony does appear to show Trump writing his signature on the left side of the document, while in the two copies that were held up for reporters, the president’s signature is quite clearly in the centre.


However, BuzzFeed News has been told by a government source in Ottawa that the three leaders’ names, and the line where each had to sign, were not all in the same order in the three documents.

Martin Bernetti / AFP / Getty Images

A senior White House official confirmed this to BuzzFeed News on Tuesday. Trump signed all three copies of the document in the correct place.

Why didn't Trudeau lift his copy of the document? The source said it was just because the Canadian prime minister didn’t think the event was a celebratory moment, and that there is still much work to be done.

Alejandro Pagni / AFP / Getty Images

In fact, what the three leaders signed last Friday is not the actual USMCA agreement, but a directive for their respective officials to go ahead and sign legal documents. (The deal also needs to be approved by Congress.)

There’s more. The three documents signed on Friday were in different languages. And the US, Canada, and Mexico all use a slightly different acronym for the agreement.

Normal practice requires that each country puts its own name first in multilateral treaties. That is why Canada says “Canada-Chile Free Trade Agreement” but Chile says “Tratado de Libre Comercio Chile-Canadá.” Also why Mexico will call new NAFTA “TMEUC”. It has always been thus.

Mystery solved.

Martin Bernetti / AFP / Getty Images

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.