Trump to re­veal his hopes for NAFTA

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA -

Af­ter cam­paign­ing and com­plain­ing about NAFTA for two years, Don­ald Trump is about to start do­ing some ex­plain­ing: the U.S. pres­i­dent is poised to re­lease a list as early as Mon­day re­veal­ing how he wants to change the deal.

Amer­i­can law re­quires that the ad­min­is­tra­tion pub­lish a list of its ob­jec­tives en­ter­ing trade ne­go­ti­a­tions. The rea­son this could hap­pen any day is be­cause the ad­min­is­tra­tion hopes to start ne­go­ti­a­tions around Aug. 16 and the law re­quires this list be posted on­line 30 days in ad­vance.

Ex­pect the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment to say lit­tle in re­sponse to the list.

“I can’t imag­ine that we would start ne­go­ti­at­ing be­fore the ne­go­ti­a­tions ac­tu­ally start,’’ Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau said Fri­day. “We’re go­ing to be re­spon­si­ble about this, to be thought­ful and re­spon­si­ble in how we en­gage the ad­min­is­tra­tion.’’

That tight-lipped ap­proach stems from the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment’s over­all strat­egy: Make the Amer­i­cans lay out their cards first, given that they asked for th­ese ne­go­ti­a­tions and in the par­lance of trade talks are the “de­man­deur.’’

The U.S. has sig­nalled wildly con­flict­ing ap­proaches.

Trump keeps threat­en­ing to rip up the trade agree­ment in the ab­sence of a ma­jor rene­go­ti­a­tion. His vice-pres­i­dent just de­liv­ered a speech ex­ud­ing col­le­gial­ity and promis­ing a new NAFTA that would be a “win-win-win.’’

The sig­nals to Congress have been equally con­tra­dic­tory.

In a leaked draft of a let­ter to law­mak­ers, the ad­min­is­tra­tion showed at a de­sire to play hard­ball and seek changes that would be deemed non-starters by the other coun­tries. It later re­leased a bare-bones, mod­est ver­sion of that let­ter.

It was with this let­ter that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion for­mally de­clared its in­ten­tion to en­ter trade ne­go­ti­a­tions with Canada and Mex­ico. Those mixed mes­sages are due in part to philo­soph­i­cal dif­fer­ences within Trump’s team about how ag­gres­sive to get on trade.

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