Trump’s NAFTA renegotiation is a cynical ploy
by William Waren, senior trade analyst
Donald Trump is incapable of negotiating a new North American Free Trade Agreement or any other trade deal based on principles of environmental, economic and social justice. His dangerously haphazard trade policies favor corporate polluters over people and the planet. And now they are being used as an electoral tool.
Any trade deal that Trump negotiates is likely to have a raft of anti-environment provisions. The Administration’s stated NAFTA negotiating objectives reinforce concerns that Trump plans to use a new NAFTA to hamstring effective environmental regulation across the board. NAFTA rules include some that are enforced by government-to-government lawsuits before panels of trade lawyers. Those panels have the authority to impose retaliatory trade sanctions such as higher tariffs on the exports of countries that fail to roll back regulations. This process presents a threat to sensible environmental and climate policies. Trump’s NAFTA plan would also establish a regulatory review process would establish inappropriate procedures like mutual recognition of safety standards and a bureaucratic process for identifying alleged excessive burdens on business.
With the November midterm elections approaching, Trump’s posturing on trade appears to be an electoral strategy, an attempt to help secure working class votes in the same Midwestern industrial states he won.
Trump will likely seek to peel off white working-class voters in the Midwest with his “America First” trade message and try to rile them up with his openly racist rhetoric about Latino immigrants and African-Americans. He seeks to shatter the progressive coalition of grassroots trade unionists, environmentalists and minority groups.
As Robert Kuttner wrote in The American Prospect, “Trump’s opposition to the agreement (NAFTA) is a cynical ploy to grab working class votes…If no deal is reached, a NAFTA pullout may yet be a different sort of win for Trump with his nationalist base.”
Ideally, NAFTA should be renegotiated to encourage equitable free trade across North America while enforcing strong environmental and labor standards and rolling back chapters that undercut strong environmental, public health, food safety and other sensible regulatory safeguards.
Unfortunately, there is no doubt that any new trade deal negotiated by Trump, including NAFTA, would be a disaster for people the planet. That’s because the entire Trump Administration is determined to gut environmental protections and hand our lands and waters over to corporate polluters.
Trump’s record speaks for itself:
- Trump and his administration dismantled national monuments like Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, and opened our public lands to fossil fuel development and other destruction.
- Trump appointed Scott Pruitt, a corrupt crony of the fossil fuel industry, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt was forced to resign, but not before he began the process to eviscerate the EPA from the inside, rolling back countless environmental protections and stamping down science at the agency. Now, ex-fossil fuel lobbyist Andrew Wheeler has replaced Pruitt and plans to continue his environmentally disastrous agenda.
- Trump is promoting a global “Clean Coal Alliance” to encourage the construction of coal power plants in the developing world, including sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.
- Trump’s Justice Department gave a green light to the Bayer-Monsanto merger, which will give only four corporations control of the vast majority of seeds and agrochemicals, threatening farmers, consumers and the environment.
- Trump wants to dramatically increase oil and gas drilling in the Western Arctic, threatening wildlife and ramping up global warming.
- Trump plans to roll back essential environmental and health regulations related to biotechnology, GMOs and organic animal welfare.
- Trump and his Administration have notoriously denied that burning fossil fuels is accelerating climate change in such venues as the Paris Climate Conference and the annual United Nations Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Climate Change in Bonn, Germany.
As Erich Pica, President of Friends of the Earth, warns us:
Trump has proven again and again that he acts only in service of corporate polluters, industry insiders, and the corrupt cronies he’s packed our government with. This administration is hell bent on destroying essential protections that safeguard our public health and protect our planet for future generations. Coal companies are now free to pilfer our public lands, power plants can release countless toxins into the air, and Big Oil is giddy at the thought of drilling in the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf of Mexico. The water we drink, the air we breathe, and our sacred public spaces and lands are more threatened than they ever have been. Impacts on public health are already being felt, particularly by frontline neighborhoods and communities of color.
During his campaign for president, Donald Trump made false assurances that he would rework NAFTA to protect the American people. However, Trump’s rhetoric and actions since taking office demonstrate that he is using NAFTA renegotiation to amplify his war on the planet and to expose the American people to dangerous pollution, unsafe products, and catastrophic global warming.