During the rambling, unhinged klansman speech Trump delivered in Arizona last night, he said it was probably "inevitable" that the United States will unilaterally withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Why would he say that now after choosing not to withdraw earlier this year?
Well, Trump likes to just say shit, especially shit that he blurted out during the 2016 campaign, and that could be the case in this instance, but American, Mexican, and Canadian officials just met for the first time and the American representative kicked off negotiations with a harsh tone.
From the Detroit News:
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in opening remarks of the five-day negotiation in Washington that the president is looking for wholesale changes to the trade agreement that has been blamed for lost jobs in the U.S. auto industry.
“The views of the president about NAFTA, which I completely share, are well-known,” Lighthizer said Wednesday. “I want to be clear that he is not interested in a mere tweaking of few provisions and a couple of updated chapters. We feel that NAFTA has fundamentally failed many, many Americans and needs major improvement.”
Canadian and Mexican officials pushed back in public comments of their own, defending their countries positions on the benefit of the original agreement.
It's not clear exactly what the Trump regime hopes to get out of this aside from simply looking like they're taking a tough stance, but those lobbying the White House apparently want to adopt a de facto border tax in all but name by imposing duties on more imported products from Canada and Mexico. The problem is doing that would make imports from China even more appealing.
It's not as if Canada and Mexico are the only games in town, but we benefit more from doing business with them than any other country.
For their part, Trump regime officials have never clearly stated what they want. To say that they want a "better deal" for Americans is meaningless. Everyone wants a better deal in life, but that is not a specific goal or target for negotiations. I don't know if you could even call this a "negotiation" because it doesn't appear that American officials are offering to give up something in return.
At the end of the day, I don't expect to see the kind of "wholesale changes" Lighthizer is calling for nor do I expect Trump will withdraw from NAFTA. The economic consequences would be immediate and severe for nearly every person in America. This could be the kind of thing that prompts immediate congressional intervention to reinstate it.
None of this, of course, will ever stop Trump from talking about it. He's still talking about a border wall.