Tag Archives: NAFTA

Let’s call it NAFTA 2.0

Donald Trump vowed to toss out the North American Free Trade Agreement, calling it the “worst trade deal” ever negotiated … ever!

Over the weekend, the president announced a new trade agreement — which is called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement — with Canada and Mexico. It remains to be seen whether it’s better than NAFTA. I’ll say this: Trump has delivered on a key campaign pledge to get rid of one trade deal and replace it with another.

I believe in free trade. I also believe that NAFTA was good for all three nations. It stripped away tariffs, enabling the nations to ship goods among each other. Trump contended during the 2016 that NAFTA cost the United States too many jobs, more or less echoing the mantra delivered in 1992 by Texas billionaire businessman H. Ross Perot.

Let’s look at the details of this deal

Congress will have to approve NAFTA 2.0. The president wants Mexico’s president, Enrique Pena Nieto, to sign it before handing his office over to his successor. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — who Trump once blasted as “weak” — called the new treaty a “good day for Canada.”

Midwest farmers are happy with the new agreement. I hope that happiness makes its way to Texas, with its own huge agricultural industry.

The new deal has drawn some guarded, but optimistic, responses from key lawmakers. According to Politico: “Maintaining the trilateral North American deal is an important prerequisite to preserving and extending those gains and the Trump administration has achieved that goal,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “I look forward to reviewing this deal to conform it meets the high standards of Trade Promotion Authority.”

I remain committed to free trade among the three friendly giant nations. I hope the new deal, once we dive deeply into the details, is the result of the guy who has boasted of his ability to cut the best deals in the history of Planet Earth.

Do we stay engaged or do we withdraw?

The United States has pulled out of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council.

Donald J. Trump doesn’t like the council’s bias against Israel, nor does he like the human rights records of many of the nations that are members of the council.

The president’s response? He decided to withdraw. He’ll let the Human Rights Council do whatever it does without direct U.S. involvement.

That’s no way to lead, Mr. President. Hey, it’s a form of “leading from behind,” which is what Trump so often accused his predecessor, Barack Obama, of doing.

My own preference would be for the United States to stay engaged in the Human Rights Council, exerting pressure on the U.N. body to cease its bias against Israel and to remind many of its members that they have little moral standing to talk about human rights abuses.

I refer to nations such as Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, Venezuela, and Cuba as members of the HRC. I get that those nations all have hideous human rights records.

Why does the president want to withdraw from yet another world body? He’s backed out of the Paris climate accord, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, threatened to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement.

He recently refused to sign the joint communique of the G-7 economic powers that met in Quebec. What’s more, Trump has threatened to launch a worldwide trade war with our most reliable trading partners and allies.

This is how you “make America great”? This is how you “put America first”?

Nope. It’s a prescription for isolating the world’s most indispensable nation from the world community. The Human Rights Council needs improvement, to be sure.

The more constructive posture would be to have our voices heard — at the table.

Two years later, Trump still making no sense on trade

I posted a blog item nearly two years ago wondering if Donald Trump knew a damn thing about trade policy.

My conclusion, based on what I understood from a speech he gave in Bangor, Maine, was that he was clueless.

I must maintain that conclusion today.

Incoherence on trade policy …

Now that he is president of the United States, Trump has decided to impose steep and punishing tariffs on imported goods from two of our nation’s most vital trading partners: Canada and Mexico.

The Republican president has trashed the North American Free Trade Agreement, which includes the United States and, yes, Canada and Mexico. NAFTA was intended to forgo the kind of protectionist tariffs that governments impose on other nations.

The concept of “free trade” is to allow goods and commodities to flow among participating countries. To that end, I long have believed NAFTA was doing as it was intended.

Yet the president took office after promising to re-do NAFTA. I don’t know the basis of his disagreement with the agreement, except that he says the United States is wallowing in some sort of deepening “trade deficit” with our primary trading partners.

Now he’s calling Canada — Canada, I tell ya! — a threat to our “national security.” Does this guy, the president, know anything — about anything?

Two years ago, in Maine, Trump told us he favored free trade; then in the same speech, he said he opposed it.

His nonsensical approach to trade has not abated one bit now that he has taken an oath to serve as the head of state of our great nation.

This is what we acquired when Donald Trump got elected?

Holy cow, man!

Trump showing ’em R-E-S-P-E-C-T?

Donald Trump’s feel-good campaign has hit a few walls along the way.

He’s gone to Quebec to take part in the G-7 summit of the world’s leading economic powers and has managed to tick off all of our allies. These are the real friends with whom this country formerly enjoyed a long-standing relationship through thick and thin, good times and bad, war and peace.

Yep, he’s now imposing steep trade tariffs, which might precipitate a trade war with, say, Canada and the European Union. China is there, too. Our relationship with the People’s Republic of China has been up and down since the communists took control in 1949, but at the moment it’s supposed to be in good shape — except that we might launch a trade war with them, too.

And, yes, we once fought a war with Japan and Germany. But since that terrible time, they have stood shoulder to shoulder with us.

He has said he might tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement, even though Mexico — the third nation involved with NAFTA — isn’t represented at the G-7.

In the midst of all this, Trump is trying to make nice with Russia, as if he hasn’t made his preferences known already about Vladimir Putin’s government already around the world.

He wants Russia to come back into the circle of nations that used to be known as the G-8. That was until the organization booted the Russians out because they invaded Crimea and backed pro-Moscow forces rebelling against the government in Ukraine.

And while Trump excoriates Canada for posing a “national security threat” to the United States because of trade practices, he ignores the real threat that Russia has demonstrated by interfering in our 2016 election. Moreover, the Russians likely are going to do it again in 2018.

This is how you earn “respect” around the world, Mr. President?

No. It isn’t. It’s how you make a mockery of the role you assumed when you took the oath of office as president of the United States.

They aren’t respecting us in these world capitals. So help me, they are mocking us.

Donald Trump: trade protectionist

Just how many more somersaults can the contemporary political structure endure?

There once was a time when Republicans hated tariffs and taxes; they called it protectionism. They were free trade advocates. Let the market determine all things involving trade, they would say.

Democrats invoked trade protectionism because their union movement allies insisted on it. They believed tariffs on imported goods protected domestically produced material. They were the champions of U.S.-made goods and commodities.

What in the name of free trade is going on here?

The nation’s top Republican, Donald John Trump has just announced steep tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. The GOP president has imposed a policy long favored by those hated Democrats.

So, how have the markets responded? Badly. Wall Street tanked again today on that news, with the Dow Jones average plunging more than 500 points, before closing at just a little less than 500 points in the red.

Tariffs are taxes. The result is that the price of the goods being imported is going to increase. I also thought rampant inflation once was considered a bad economic trend. Wasn’t it? Isn’t it still?

Me? I am a free trader. I like the North American Free Trade Agreement. NAFTA opened this hemisphere to free trade among the United States, Canada and Mexico. Trump doesn’t like NAFTA. It’s that “populist” theme on which he campaigned for president in 2016.

This brings to mind a curious question for me: How does this president hang on to such strong Republican support when his economic policies — such as they are — run counter to traditional GOP principles?

It’s all gone topsy-turvy. I can’t keep my balance.

POTUS remains an angry man

Donald John Trump is an angry old man. The 71-year-old president of the United States marked his 200th day in office with a series of tweets.

He blasted Democrats, the “fake” media, turncoat Republicans, Congress in general. The only folks who escaped his Twitter tirade it seems are his kin and Vladimir Putin.

What gives with this guy? The honeymoon period presidents traditionally get never materialized with this buffoon. Perhaps it was the tone of his inaugural speech, the one that talked about vowing to end the “American carnage” and painted a dark portrait of the world’s greatest, most powerful nation. There was no high-minded prose coming from the president. There was plenty of anger.

It’s gone downhill … from there!

He hasn’t filled a huge number of key staff posts. Judgeships remain vacant. Federal prosecutors need to be named. He’s changed his White House chief of staff, booted out his press secretary, fired the FBI director and the acting attorney general, tossed his national security adviser, kicked out his communications director. Am I missing anyone? Whatever.

My point is that the president is an unhappy man who this morning decided to torch a Democratic senator over an issue for which the senator has apologized. Take a bow, Richard Blumenthal.

Nothing of consequence has been accomplished — legislatively. Yes, he issued those executive orders removing the United States from the Transpacific Partnership and from the Paris climate accords. He tweeted something about banning transgendered Americans from serving in the military, only to get push back from the Pentagon brass at the highest levels of all the military branches.

Trump keeps getting caught in lies and duplicitous comments, thanks to the “leakers” inside the White House who are exposing his countless shortcomings as the head of state and government.

Those “easy” tasks, such as repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act? Not done! The leader of the party that controls the Congress and the White House couldn’t get that one pushed across the finish line. So … he blames Congress for his own failures.

Getting Mexico to build a wall along our nations’ shared border? Forget about it. Tossing out the North American Free Trade Agreement? Pfftt!

Here’s the best part of all of this: We’re at Day 200 of the Trump administration. That means we’ve only got 1,261 more days of this ahead.

Maybe.

Trudeau offers advice: Knock off the protectionism, U.S.

Protectionist trade policies make good politics at certain times, but they tend to stand directly in the way of allied nations and friendly neighbors.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made a rare appearance before the U.S. National Governors Association meeting and offered a stern bit of advice: Fix what you think is wrong with the North American Free Trade Agreement instead of throwing it over.

Donald J. Trump has vowed to toss NAFTA into the crapper. He threatened to do it immediately after becoming president, then backed off.

Trudeau doesn’t think tossing out NAFTA is a good idea. I agree with him.

The United States about 4,000 miles of common border with Canada, our leading trading partner.

Trudeau said this, in part, to the governors, according to BBC News: President Donald Trump has made “America First” his mantra, shaping his policies on trade and immigration.

But Mr. Trudeau, who is a fierce advocate of free trade, told the governors protectionist policies “kill growth.”

“And that hurts the very workers these measures are nominally intended to protect. Once we travel down that road, it can quickly become a cycle of tit-for-tat, a race to the bottom, where all sides lose,” Mr. Trudeau said.

Is that so hard to understand? The U.S. president donned the so-called populist cape and campaigned on pledges to get rid of NAFTA, to scrap the Trans-Pacific Partnership and to remove the United States from the Paris climate accord. He made good on the pledges regarding the latter two agreements.

NAFTA does have its critics. As with the Affordable Care Act — which Republicans want to scrap altogether — NAFTA can be repaired with improvements. Why not embrace the notion of free and fair trade with Canada and Mexico?

Prime Minister Trudeau has offered some sound counsel to U.S. governors. He wants to create what he called a “thinner border” between the two giant neighboring nations. Donald Trump is seeking to wall off the nation he governs from the rest of North America.

How is that going to benefit this great nation?

Donald John Trump: Grifter?

The term “grifter” isn’t one that I toss around as a matter of routine.

It’s a fairly new addition to the English lexicon. I found a definition that read: “Someone who swindles others.”

Grifter equals swindler. Got that? Good.

Well, I heard a contemporary political pundit the other day use the term to describe Donald John Trump, the nation’s 45th president of the United States. My first reaction was “ouch, man!”

The guy on TV didn’t articulate in precisely what context Trump is a “grifter.” I’ll make a bit of a leap right here. I am going to presume he means that the president has swindled Americans into believing the things he said he would do right away if he were elected to the very first office he ever sought.

He’d toss out the Affordable Care Act and replace it with something else; he’d negotiate a deal to secure peace in the Middle East; he would pull the United States out of the North American Free Trade Act; he would act more “presidential” and stop using Twitter as much as he did while running for the presidency; he would stay on the job at the White House and forgo golfing outings at any of his many luxurious resorts.

By my count that would be zero for five — and just on those particular pledges he made! Were there others? Sure. Let’s just stick with those for a moment. They’re pretty major things.

I haven’t (yet) mentioned the Trump University matter in which he settled with some plaintiffs who said they were, um, swindled out of money they paid for Trump’s defunct school. How about the money he said he would donate to veterans’ causes, but still hasn’t done so?

I’m not yet certain that the term “grifter” is going to become a regular part of my vocabulary. I get what it means and what it implies about the president of the United States.

It does seem to fit this individual’s modus operandi — as a businessman, TV celebrity and now as our head of state and commander in chief.

No, Mr. Trump, first 100 days not quite so good

Dear Mr. President,

I read your tweets this morning in which you excoriated the “mainstream fake media” for its reporting of your first 100 days as president of the United States.

With all due respect, sir, you are wrong, the media are correct.

Your first 100 days haven’t been the greatest in the history of the presidency as you have stated.

The attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act failed; your effort to ban entry for those from Muslim-majority countries has been struck down twice by the federal courts; you haven’t touched the North American Free Trade Agreement, which you vowed to repeal on “day one” of your presidency.

Sure, you’ve signed a ton of executive orders. But you seem to have ignored the criticism you leveled at Barack H. Obama for governing at times via executive fiat. His doing it was wrong, but your doing it is right? Are we supposed to believe that, sir?

You’ve gotten into those snits with our allies in Australia, Germany, Mexico and Canada. You’ve decided to launch a trade war — for crying out loud! — with Canada over milk and lumber imports. That leads to success? I don’t think so.

Don’t get me wrong, Mr. President. Your dismal first 100 days doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a failed presidency. You can still have success going on from here. I hope you do succeed, sir, but success in my view depends on whether you’re going to work with Democrats in Congress.

I’ve tried to drive home the point in this blog, sir, that governing is a bipartisan team sport. It is far different than campaigning for high office. Sure, your base still loves you. I am not one of those who voted for you. I wanted Hillary to win.

Here’s the thing: You’re my president, too. I consider you to be duly elected. However, I expect you to take my concerns under consideration as you decide which policies to push.

You vowed to “unite the country.” You haven’t done it, Mr. President.

So, please stop bragging via Twitter about your self-proclaimed fantastic success. You are imagining it, sir.

The reality out here is quite different. Many of us are frightened about what the immediate future might bring.

Listen to us as intently as you listen to those who continue to stand tall behind you.

Oh, and one more thing: Stop bragging about winning the 2016 election. We get it. True leaders look forward — to the future.

President redefines ‘populism’

I would venture a guess that if one were to ask Donald J. Trump to define “populism” off the cuff that he would say something like: It’s the philosophy on which I campaigned successfully for the presidency of the United States.

Translation: He likely doesn’t understand a philosophy aimed at taking power away from big corporations and the rich folks who run them.

This billionaire real estate mogul and TV celebrity campaigned as a populist, declaring his intention to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement, pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and “work for you, the people.” He would surround himself with the “best people” to run the government and would “drain the swam” of the corporate corruption he said has infected American politics since the beginning of the Industrial Age.

He is governing, though, as anything but a populist.

The president did sign the executive order that took the United States out of TPP. NAFTA? Well, in the span of just a few days he said he would consider pulling out; then he said he wouldn’t after talking to the leaders of Mexico and Canada; then he said he would like to “renegotiate” the treaty. The “best people” surrounding him include a healthy cadre of executives from Goldman Sachs, the big-time investment outfit he criticized freely during the campaign. The “swamp”? It’s still full of muck.

I want to focus for a moment on NAFTA. Free trade is an example of orthodox Republican philosophy with which I agree. I dislike artificial barriers, such as import taxes and tariffs, that inhibit trade, particularly among bordering nations. NAFTA’s intent is to open markets throughout three major nations: the United States, Canada and Mexico. Is it perfect? No. Is it as flawed and “disastrous” as the president has contended? No to that, too.

It has fostered a freer flow of goods across the borders of all three nations and has been a significant net plus for their economies.

I am heartened to sense the president is beginning to understand that campaign rhetoric often must differ with the way one actually governs.

NAFTA is not the bogeyman that Trump called it while winning the presidency.

As for whether he can govern as the populist he portrayed himself as being, I only can point to the weekend lifestyle he still enjoys as he jets off to Mar-a-Lago, his glitzy, glamorous and posh resort in southern Florida.

His attachment to all the decadence associated with it suggests to me that the president is a populist in name only. Hey, maybe we can create a new acronym: PINO.