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AUGUST 27, 2018
Kuttner on TAP
NAFTA: More Fake News from Trump. The White House threw together a rushed announcement of a “preliminary” agreement with Mexico on auto industry tariffs and perhaps wages. This was conjured up on short notice to divert attention from Trump’s rising legal woes and the appalled reaction from legislators of both parties to his refusal to keep the White House flag at half-staff to honor Senator John McCain, who passed away on August 25.
What makes the NAFTA announcement fake? First, an agreement to raise slightly the North American content (from 62.5 percent to 75 percent) required to qualify autos for tariff-free import into the U.S. has always been the low-hanging fruit of the deal. It’s all the other provisions—on the environment, on the ability of corporations to sue in special tribunals to block regulations, on farm and energy provisions, and on myriad others, that have and continue to be the sticking points.
Second, there is no revised NAFTA deal on autos without Canada, and it’s not clear that Canada will agree to such a partial deal. Third, there is no such thing as a preliminary agreement—either NAFTA is renegotiated or it isn’t.
This is complex stuff, but not all that complex. Yet most of the press coverage has taken the White House announcement at face value. Have a look at The New York Times.
Not addressed were Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs, or revisions in policies that compromise Mexico’s energy independence, a priority issue for Mexico’s new progressive president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
Besides diverting attention from other embarrassing Trump pratfalls, the NAFTA announcement was intended to peel off labor support. It didn’t work. Here is a statement just released from America’s leading industrial union officials:
We are aggressively engaged in pursuing an agreement that works for working people in all three countries, and we are not done yet. There is more work that needs to be done to deliver the needed, real solutions to NAFTA’s deeply ingrained flaws.
Any new deal must raise wages, ensure workers’ rights and freedoms, reduce outsourcing and put the interests of working families first in all three countries. And working people must be able to review the full and final text and have the confidence not only in the terms of the deal, but its implementation, monitoring and enforcement. We remain committed to working with the administration to get NAFTA right. Our members’ jobs depend on it. But, as always, the devil is in the details.
Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO President
Leo Gerard, United Steelworkers (USW) International President
Gary Jones, International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) President
Robert Martinez Jr., International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers International President
Chris Shelton, Communications Workers of America President
Don’t expect a real NAFTA breakthrough any time soon, and don’t fall for Fake Trump News. Now, back to the special counsel. That’s real. ~ ROBERT KUTTNER

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