Trump to kill old agree­ment

Out with the old: Move to push Congress to ap­prove USMCA

Kenora Daily Miner and News - - NATIONAL NEWS - JAMES McCARTEN

WASH­ING­TON — The orig­i­nal NAFTA deal has landed back atop Don­ald Trump’s hit list, with the U.S. pres­i­dent again declar­ing he in­tends to ter­mi­nate the 24-yearold trade pact — a move that ap­pears de­signed to pres­sure law­mak­ers on Capi­tol Hill into ap­prov­ing its re­cently ne­go­ti­ated suc­ces­sor.

Trump, Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau and for­mer Mex­i­can pres­i­dent En­rique Pena Ni­eto signed the new U.S. Canada-Mex­ico Agree­ment — USMCA, although the fed­eral gov­ern­ment in Ot­tawa has rechris­tened it CUSMA — dur­ing an awk­ward cer­e­mony at the out­set of G20 meet­ings Fri­day in Argentina.

Trump was on board Air Force One on his way back to Wash­ing­ton late Satur­day when he an­nounced that he would no­tify Congress of his in­ten­tion to ter­mi­nate NAFTA, a long-threat­ened move that would give law­mak­ers six months to ap­prove its re­place­ment once for­mal no­tice is de­liv­ered.

“I will be for­mally ter­mi­nat­ing NAFTA shortly,” the pres­i­dent said of the tri­lat­eral agree­ment he and his sup­port­ers have long loved to hate.

“I’ll be ter­mi­nat­ing it within a rel­a­tively short pe­riod of time. We get rid of NAFTA. It’s been a dis­as­ter for the United States. It’s caused us tremen­dous amounts of unem­ploy­ment and loss and com­pany loss and ev­ery­thing else. That’ll be ter­mi­nated.

“And so Congress will have a choice of the USMCA or pre-NAFTA, which worked very well. You got out, you ne­go­ti­ate your deals. It worked very well.”

A num­ber of Democrats in Congress, em­pow­ered by their new ma­jor­ity in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, say they don’t much like the new agree­ment in its cur­rent form ei­ther, and say they won’t sup­port it with­out more strin­gent en­force­ment mech­a­nisms for new labour rules and en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion.

Some Repub­li­cans say they, too, are dis­in­clined to sup­port the agree­ment in its cur­rent form.

Kristin Dz­iczek, vice-pres­i­dent of in­dus­try, labour and eco­nomics at the Michi­gan­based Cen­ter for Au­to­mo­tive Re­search, was not sur­prised to hear of Trump’s de­ci­sion, some­thing he threat­ened sev­eral times dur­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions in an ef­fort to spur progress and curry favour with his sup­port­ers.

“I don’t think it’s a bluff,” Dz­iczek said Sun­day. “I think that’s how he thinks he’s go­ing to whip votes.”

Dz­iczek said she’s an­tic­i­pates a sce­nario where Trump signs a for­mal in­tent to with­draw, but ig­nores the fact that con­gres­sional ap­proval would be re­quired to re­peal the un­der­ly­ing leg­is­la­tion that en­forces the terms of the orig­i­nal agree­ment — a sce­nario she’s dubbed “zom­bie NAFTA.”

“I think it’s re­ally, re­ally likely we end up in that sit­u­a­tion,” she said. “With­out this, he’s got lit­tle lever­age over Congress, and Congress has got de­trac­tors on both sides — on the Demo­crat and the Repub­li­can side — who don’t re­ally like the deal.”

Mas­sachusetts Demo­crat El­iz­a­beth War­ren, a mem­ber of the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee and one of more than a dozen names be­lieved to be eye­ing a pres­i­den­tial run in 2020, has added her name to the list of law­mak­ers who say they won’t sup­port the new agree­ment.

“As it’s cur­rently writ­ten, Trump’s deal won’t stop the se­ri­ous and on­go­ing harm NAFTA causes for Amer­i­can work­ers. It won’t stop out­sourc­ing, it won’t raise wages, and it won’t cre­ate jobs. It’s NAFTA 2.0,” War­ren told a lun­cheon au­di­ence last week dur­ing a for­eign pol­icy speech in Wash­ing­ton.

She cited a lack of en­force­ment tools for labour stan­dards, drug com­pany “hand­outs” and a lack of suf­fi­ciently ro­bust mea­sures to cut pol­lu­tion or com­bat cli­mate change, par­tic­u­larly in Mex­ico — and her re­fusal to use the deal’s new name hinted at pre­cisely why Trump wants to do away with the old one.

“For these rea­sons, I op­pose NAFTA 2.0, and will vote against it in the Se­nate un­less Pres­i­dent Trump re­opens the agree­ment and pro­duces a bet­ter deal for Amer­ica’s work­ing fam­i­lies.”

Among the Repub­li­cans who see prob­lems is Florida Sen. Marco Ru­bio, who tweeted his fears that the cur­rent agree­ment gives agri­cul­tural pro­duc­ers in Mex­ico an un­fair ad­van­tage.

“As cur­rently drafted this deal will put Florida sea­sonal veg­etable grow­ers out of busi­ness,” Ru­bio wrote. “It al­lows Mex­ico to dump gov­ern­mentsub­si­dized pro­duce on the U.S. mar­ket.

“Go­ing for­ward Amer­ica will de­pend on Mex­ico for our win­ter veg­eta­bles. Un­ac­cept­able.”

In a blog en­try posted shortly af­ter the agree­ment was signed Fri­day, Cato In­sti­tute trade an­a­lyst Si­mon Lester ap­peared to an­tic­i­pate Trump’s move — although he ac­knowl­edged it would have made a lot more sense if the Repub­li­cans still had con­trol of Congress.

“The Democrats are in a dif­fer­ent po­si­tion,” Lester wrote.

“Many of them don’t like NAFTA to be­gin with, so a with­drawal threat wouldn’t feel so threat­en­ing. Fur­ther­more, a with­drawal threat could lead to an in­ter­nal GOP war over trade pol­icy, which would be won­der­ful for the Democrats. This all puts the Democrats in a pretty good spot to make de­mands.”

Shortly af­ter Fri­day’s sign­ing, U.S. Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Robert Lighthizer in­sisted that the deal was ne­go­ti­ated with bi­par­ti­san sup­port from both Democrats and Repub­li­cans, and ex­pressed con­fi­dence it would sur­vive the con­gres­sional ap­proval process.

“I think we will get the sup­port of a lot of Democrats, a very high num­ber of Democrats, ab­so­lutely — I have no doubt about it,” Lighthizer said. A num­ber of the their con­cerns will be ad­dressed in the im­ple­ment­ing leg­is­la­tion that will have to be brought for­ward for rat­i­fi­ca­tion, he added.

Now that it’s been signed, re­open­ing the deal is a non­starter, Dz­iczek said.

What’s more likely is months of po­lit­i­cal horse­trad­ing as Democrats and Repub­li­cans alike make their sup­port con­tin­gent on other po­lit­i­cal ini­tia­tives, such as the con­tro­ver­sial De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pol­icy, which pro­tects il­le­gal im­mi­grants who ar­rived in the U.S. as chil­dren.

PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, right, and Mex­ico’s Pres­i­dent En­rique Pena Ni­eto, left, par­tic­i­pate in the USMCA sign­ing cer­e­mony on Fri­day, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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