Trump wants new NAFTA to cut deficit with Mex­ico

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Josh Boak Alex Bran­don, The As­so­ci­ated Press

WASH­ING­TON» Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump vowed Mon­day to boost U.S. man­u­fac­tur­ing by cut­ting the $64 bil­lion trade deficit with Mex­ico as he show­cased prod­ucts made in all 50 states — ev­ery­thing from a firetruck to a base­ball bat.

“No longer are we go­ing to al­low other coun­tries to break the rules, to steal our jobs and drain our wealth,” Trump said at the White House event.

Shortly af­ter Trump’s re­marks, the U.S. trade rep­re­sen­ta­tive re­leased an 18-page re­port about its goals for up­dat­ing the decades-old North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment with Canada and Mex­ico. In ad­di­tion to re­duc­ing the trade deficit, the ad­min­is­tra­tion wants to in­sert a chap­ter on the dig­i­tal econ­omy into the deal. It also wants to strengthen la­bor and en­vi­ron­men­tal obli­ga­tions, as well as amend­ing the rules of ori­gin so that more of the prod­ucts traded come from the United States and North Amer­ica.

Fac­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into his cam­paign’s ties with Rus­sia and a tax and health care agenda strug­gling to make head­way as quickly as promised, Trump is turn­ing his fo­cus to trade this week. Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials are to meet Wed­nes­day with eco­nomic of­fi­cials from China, a na­tion the pres­i­dent has ac­cused of dump­ing steel on the global mar­ket to hurt U.S. steel­mak­ers. The White House em­pha­sis on trade fol­lows a string of other re­cent theme weeks on en­ergy, job-train­ing and in­fra­struc­ture that mostly failed to draw much at­ten­tion away from the Rus­sia in­quiry.

Trump donned a cow­boy hat from Texas. He swung a base­ball bat from Louisiana. And he even climbed into the cab of a Wis­con­sin-built firetruck and pre­tended to be a fire­fighter, say­ing, “Where’s the fire? Where’s the fire? Put it out fast!”

The new NAFTA ob­jec­tives, a re­quire­ment to be­gin talks on up­dat­ing the agree­ment in the next 30 days, con­tain the first specifics for a Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion that has made bold prom­ises on trade. Trump has pledged to re­cover fac­tory jobs and boost wages by craft­ing new trade deals. Sup­port­ers note that NAFTA en­abled com­pa­nies to charge cheaper prices for prod­ucts that range from cars to vac­uum clean­ers, help­ing many U.S. con­sumers.

The pres­i­dent said he only seeks a level play­ing field for U.S. com­pa­nies and work­ers, but “if the play­ing field was slanted a lit­tle bit to­ward us, I would ac­cept that, also.”

But the pres­i­dent has a con­flicted re­la­tion­ship with global trade. His name­sake cloth­ing busi­ness de­pended on the work of low-wage work­ers liv­ing over­seas, as does the fash­ion line of his daugh­ter and White House aide, Ivanka Trump.

Trump has blasted trade deficits as ham­per­ing the econ­omy by send­ing money abroad. But the trade deficit has ac­tu­ally im­proved from $762 bil­lion in 2006 to $505 bil­lion last year, a change brought about largely be­cause U.S. con­sumers cut back spend­ing dur­ing the Great Re­ces­sion.

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