Words and things, mostly words.
Yesterday, after weeks of speculation, Donald Trump announced that a deal had been made with Mexico, regarding the ongoing renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. After spending the last 18 months lobbing tariffs and insults at both Canada and Mexico, the United States left Canada to stew in their own juices and negotiated with their southern neighbour. The Trump administration has been anxious to secure a deal — a victory, any victory — before the 2018 mid-term elections. Likewise, the Mexican government has been in a rush to finalise a deal in time to ratify it before December 1st, when the new, incoming government takes over.
There has been a lot of exaggeration and breathless commentary, largely from Donald Trump and whatever amalgam of prions and plaques that make up his brain these days, and little of it has been factual or even adherent to reality. All that has happened is that the US and Mexico have come to an agreement, but nothing has been signed or codified — the details of the agreement won’t be available to the public for another ~60 days. Trump thinks this paves the way for the US to scrap NAFTA and switch to bilateral deals with Mexico and Canada respectively.
This is not how this works … to be mild. Mexico has also repeatedly indicated that they expect Canada to be involved in ongoing negotiations, and the US Congress would need to be involved to begin the process of scrapping / replacing NAFTA, and that is not something that they seem keen to do. So, for all Trump’s bluster, he’s — as is usually the case — accomplished very little. The fact that Mexico has agreed to some of the US’s demands does pose a problem for Canada, but considering the US has 4 days to get them on board so that Congress can be given sufficient notice — 90 days to be exact — almost nothing is certain at this point.
What kills me is that I find myself in a position defending NAFTA, a trade deal that has demonstrably caused a lot of harm to vast segments of the North American population. It’s been a great deal for the capitalist class, while labour has not benefited to anywhere near the same extent. I don’t have any specific love for NAFTA, but it’s too late to shove the genie back in the bottle; I do think North American trade needs a significant overhaul, but not at the behest of demented, senile oaf and his cadre of economic advisers and their dated, protectionist notions. It’s also a process that should not be expedited just to appease a president looking for something to boast about heading into mid-term elections.