On NAFTA, Trump’s True Intentions Remain Unclear

The New American
by Alex Newman



The “Trans-Pacific Partnership” (TPP) fell almost immediately. But now, everybody is wondering what will happen next on one of the most disastrous “free-trade” schemes to be imposed on America. On the campaign trail, then-candidate Donald Trump’s opposition to the controversial North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the globalist ideology underpinning it were made crystal clear. Among other criticism, Trump blasted NAFTA as the “worst trade deal in the history of the world.” He vowed to “rip up” the deal, too. But after threatening last week to withdraw from it, President Trump has announced his intent to try to renegotiate it first. If that fails, he said, the U.S. government will formally withdraw from the scheme.

Unfortunately for constitutionalists and advocates of self-government, though, some of the most harmful provisions of the massive “trade” scheme — transnational North American kangaroo courts with the purported power to overrule the American people’s elected representatives and American courts — are reportedly not even up for review. Whether those and other extremist NAFTA provisions undermining U.S. national sovereignty will be revisited in the upcoming negotiations remains to be seen. But so far, multiple news reports have indicated that the sovereignty-shredding “tribunals” will remain untouched, as the Trump administration is mostly just seeking “modest” changes.

Indeed, when asked what might change under the renegotiated NAFTA, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer gave no indication that the worst elements of the scheme were even being considered. “I think when you look at the various sectors — it’s obviously being a multilateral agreement — there are areas in Canada, sectors where there’s agriculture, manufacturing, services — that we look on both of them, where I think there’s both a modernization, recognizing the world has changed, and also some trade imbalances and issues that have come up, and also, frankly, some areas that fall outside the scope of NAFTA as it was negotiated at the beginning that I think we want to look at it,” he said, pointing to “dairy” as one issue that came up and suggesting that the scope of NAFTA would in fact be broadened. “But that’s — we’ve got a ways to go.”

And yet, Americans were on the verge of being freed from NAFTA’s shackles, if officials and the press are to be believed. According to media accounts, Trump was planning to announce a full withdrawal from NAFTA on the 100th day of his presidency. “I was all set to terminate,” Trump was quoted as saying from the Oval Offices in an interview. “I looked forward to terminating. I was going to do it.” Several top officials made similar comments.  

But then, according to Trump and various news reports, his Commerce Secretary, former Rothschild banker Wilbur Ross, along with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, son-in-law Jared Kushner, and some others, persuaded him not to go through with it. Those officials claimed that withdrawal from NAFTA would cause job losses and economic pain — especially among Trump supporters and farmers, who largely backed the president. Big Business lobbyists also intervened on behalf of NAFTA.

On the other side of the debate, trade adviser Peter Navarro and White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon were reportedly urging Trump to withdraw from the pseudo-“free trade” scheme, more properly characterized as a “managed-trade” regime. According to the far-left Washington Post, which has opposed Trump’s publicly articulated anti-establishment and anti-globalist agenda at every turn, the two advisers called on Trump to announce the NAFTA withdrawal at his rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania — one of the many regions across America economically devastated by globalist “trade” schemes such as NAFTA. But it was not to be.    

Trump also said he spoke with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, both of whom urged him to reconsider exiting the pact that Trump knows has devastated the U.S. economy. “I received calls from the President of Mexico and the Prime Minister of Canada asking to renegotiate NAFTA rather than terminate. I agreed,” Trump wrote on social media, leaving analysts around the world scratching their heads. He added that it was all “subject to the fact that if we do not reach a fair deal for all, we will then terminate NAFTA.” “Relationships are good – deal very possible!” Trump concluded in his two-part Twitter post.

Trump also recalled the Mexican president telling him: “I would really appreciate if we could negotiate instead of you terminating, because terminating sets a lot of things in motion that could be pretty devastating for a lot of people.” According to various media outlets, top Mexican officials went through their contacts in Washington, D.C, hoping to pressure Trump into backing down. News reports suggested Mexico City was not willing to negotiate with a “gun to its head,” and so, it would be better to seek negotiations prior to formally announcing a withdrawal. Once the formal notice is given that a government intends to leave NAFTA, a six-month countdown begins.

Trump made perfectly clear on multiple occasions that he is still willing and able to ditch NAFTA if negotiations do not go his way. “I can always terminate,” Trump was quoted as saying by the Post after explaining that he deferred to the wishes of the Mexican and Canadian government leaders, for now, because he has a “good relationship” with them. “They called me up, they said, ‘Could we try negotiating?’ I said, ‘Absolutely, yes.’ If we can’t come to a satisfactory conclusion, we’ll terminate NAFTA.”

He made similar comments at the White House during a meeting with Argentine President Mauricio Macri. “I decided rather than terminating NAFTA, which would be a pretty big, you know, shock to the system, we will renegotiate,” he said. “If I’m unable to make a fair deal for the United States, meaning a fair deal for our workers and our companies, I will terminate NAFTA. But we’re going to give renegotiation a good, strong shot.”

Press Secretary Spicer echoed those remarks, telling reporters that Trump “would hold on the termination while we negotiate a better and fairer deal for America and its workers.” “But the President also made it clear that if the parties are unable to agree on a deal that is fair for American workers and companies, after renegotiation — giving renegotiation a good shot, he will move forward with termination,” Spicer added.

Other top White House officials, such as Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, have suggested that Trump is in a good negotiating position thanks to his well-known willingness to ditch the scheme. But for voters from economically devastated communities who believed Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail — and even for some senior officials in the administration — merely renegotiating a few provisions in NAFTA would be a bitter pill to swallow.

That is because, among other reasons, before being elected, Trump gave repeated indications that he planned to get rid of NAFTA. “I’m going to rip up those trade deals and we’re going to make really good ones,” Trump said on a campaign stop in Maine during the primary season. “Ruin free trade? If I’m losing $505 billion with China, if I’m losing $58 billion a year with Mexico, in terms of deficit, why do I want that kind of trade for anyway?” He has also repeatedly expressed his antipathy toward multilateral trade schemes, preferring bilateral deals instead.

Commenting on NAFTA specifically, Trump was brutal. “NAFTA is the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere, but certainly ever signed in this country,” Trump said at a debate with “Crooked Hillary” in late September. Before that, he indicated that he knew how much suffering the scheme had unleashed. “I see the carnage that NAFTA has caused, I see the carnage,” Trump said in early August in North Carolina. “It’s been horrible. I see upstate New York, I see North Carolina, but I see every state. You look at New England. New England got really whacked. New England got hit.”

While he promptly kept his promise to reject the TPP scheme that would have entangled America with a dozen foreign governments and dictatorships, Trump said NAFTA was even worse than that one. “There’s never been a worse or a dumber deal for trade including TPP which is a disaster — but TPP I don’t believe will be as bad as NAFTA. And as you know, Hillary Clinton totally wants to approve TPP,” Trump said at a September speech in Iowa. And speaking to conservatives in February, Trump indicated that the agenda of NAFTA was to crush America. “It’s economy un-development, as far as our country is concerned,” he said.

And yet, despite knowing all that, Trump has decided to keep the essence of the scheme in place, at least with what multiple media reports suggested would be minor tinkering at best. But tinkering is not enough. Beyond the economic destruction of NAFTA is the sovereignty destruction, which is just as serious, if not more. Similar to what occurred in Europe under the European Free Trade Agreement that gradually became the totalitarian European Union that Trump has properly denounced, NAFTA is being used by the establishment globalists Trump ran against to pursue deeper North American “integration.” The end goal, as official U.S. diplomatic documents released by WikiLeaks confirmed, is a supranational North American regime with power to make laws and regulations for the continent outside the bounds of the U.S., Mexican, and Canadian constitutions.

But despite Trump’s current stance on NAFTA, many of his supporters do not believe it is necessarily too late to have Trump abolish the scheme entirely. All he would have to do is send in a written notice six months before pulling out, according to Article 2205 of the agreement. For that to happen, though, concerned Americans must continue to pressure the White House and Congress to put “America First,” as Trump promised. And that means ditching NAFTA and all of its sovereignty-stealing schemes, for good.

Alex Newman is a correspondent for The New American, covering economics, education, politics, and more. He can be reached at anewman@thenewamerican.com. Follow him on Twitter @ALEXNEWMAN_JOU or on Facebook.

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