GOP Senator: Trump Didn’t Know We Like NAFTA

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

With Trump unilaterally withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)?

It's anyone's guess at this point but, if he does, it may be for no substantiated reason at all. He may do so because of "little birds chirping in his ear," according to Republican Senator Joni Ernst.

Ernst spoke to members of the Iowa Corn Growers association on Monday when she said Trump had no idea that NAFTA is actually a good thing that lawmakers and farmers want to keep.

Ernst, who was among a group of GOP senators who met with the president to discuss NAFTA before Christmas, said Trump was under the impression they wanted him to pull out of the agreement with the countries that are the United States’ and Iowa’s largest trading partners. [...]

None of the farm state senators in the room advised him to end the deal that has been under renegotiation for months.

He was surprised (because of) all these little birds chirping in his ear about how bad NAFTA is,” she told the corn growers association.

Imagine the health of the entire economy, perhaps even the world economy, weighing on the words of some dipshit who knows nothing about international trade or economics "chirping" in Trump's ear.

I suppose we don't have to imagine because that is what's actually happening at the White House. The dipshit chirping in Trump's ear could be his own trade representative, Robert Lighthizer. Senator Ernst told the Iowa Corn Growers that Robert Lighthizer was the only person in their meeting that supported withdrawing from NAFTA.

Look, there's no doubt that Trump is an idiot who has no idea what he's doing, but it's also true that Trump's cabinet and advisers are not serving him well. I was going to say Trump will never get what he wants with people like Lighthizer negotiating for him, but I don't think Trump even knows what he wants. It may be frightening to think that Trump wants what the people around him tell him he wants. This meeting with Joni Ernst and other GOP senators suggests that may be the case.

Other recent events have also implied as much. For example, when Trump said he would sign a clean bill to codify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy immediately interjected to say that a "clean" bill should include border security funding. And in more recent days, Chief of Staff John Kelly has been speaking for Trump and rejecting deals offered to the White House by Senate Democrats.

Trump and his mental competency aside, I can't say the nationalists in the White House are the only force that popularized the idea that NAFTA is patient zero for all that ails the economy. The only reason Trump even began attacking NAFTA during the 2016 campaign and after he was elected was because Bernie Sanders and the left used it against Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton was not responsible for negotiating or signing NAFTA, and most of the trade agreement's critics couldn't tell you how they would change it, but Trump saw how potent the attack was.

Labor unions also attacked NAFTA during the 2016 campaign and a significant number of union households, particularly in the steel industry, voted for Trump in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. But their support for Trump was based on a lie sold to them by their own leaders.

You may have noticed that most of these constituencies and critics on the left have fallen silent about the North America trade deal. Some have stopped talking about it because there's no longer a Clinton around to hang in on, but others have stopped talking about it because they were duped. Trump is not going to rescue the steel industry and withdrawing from NAFTA wouldn't make anyone's life better. It could actually ruin everyone's life.

Trump slapped tariffs on foreign solar panels and washing machines just yesterday and the immediate consensus is that it will cost tens of thousands of jobs and increase prices for consumers. Withdrawing from NAFTA would produce a similar outcome, except it would apply to virtually everything from cars to paper towels and shampoo.

  • Draxiar

    A giant dumb orange wind sock is what trump is. He knows nothing so then anything will do. Rather than it being birdies chirping in his ear it’s Grima Wormtongue.

  • muselet

    I know Joni Ernst doesn’t want to face the wrath of either the Trump administration or The Base, but “little birdies chirping in his ear” is far too cute a formulation.

    (By the way, how terrifying is it that Joni Ernst, of all people, is the voice of reason on, well, any topic at all?)

    The big question is, what do Donald Trump’s anti-trade advisers think will happen if the US withdraws from NAFTA? Canada and Mexico are all-in with the *deep breath* Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership—which the other eleven countries negotiated after Trump pulled the US out of the TPP—so they don’t need the US nearly as much as before; they also don’t need to renegotiate NAFTA nearly as much as before, either. By withdrawing, the US would be shooting itself in the foot with a howitzer.

    I’m just afraid Trump’s advisers will convince him to withdraw from all multilateral trade agreements, then go full Ron Paul (never go full Ron Paul) and return the dollar to the gold standard.


    • MadJuana

      Bwahahahaha! “Never go full Ron Paul.” I love your movie references.

  • ninjaf

    I was against NAFTA in the 90s. I even voted for Ross Perot because of it. But that ship sailed literally decades ago (I was working for a muffler manufacturer in NW Ohio when it was enacted and I saw first hand what happened to the factory jobs). To pull out of it now would be just plain dumb. The damage has been done and baked into the economy. Those jobs are not coming back. But the jobs that have come up since then can still be lost by knucklehead policy decisions like they are threatening.

  • What Trump doesn’t know about most things would fill the National Archives to the brim. And the little birdies chirping in his ear are all right-wing nutjobs and ideologues who put their beliefs before the welfare of their country. Mueller needs to work faster.

    • Badgerite

      I think Mueller is building a solid case and that is the most important thing right now. Nailing that POS to the floor boards legally so he goes to ffffffing jail.

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