As U.S. Trade Officials meet with auto executives surrounding ongoing NAFTA sector negotiations, U.S.T.R. Ambassador Robert Lighthizer appears on Fox News to discuss ongoing trade initiatives with Laura Ingraham.
It’s challenging to discuss the basic ‘fatal flaw’ within a modern NAFTA in a short discussion segment; however, Ambassador Lighthizer, Secretary Ross and the newly positioned Peter Navarro have a strong position for withdrawal.
The essential problem with NAFTA is an evolution that took place over time. In its current form NAFTA became an exploited doorway into the coveted U.S. market. Asian economic interests, large multinational corporations, invested in Mexico and Canada as a way to work around any direct trade deals with the U.S.
By shipping parts to Mexico and/or Canada; and by deploying satellite manufacturing and assembly facilities in Canada and/or Mexico; China, Asia and to a lesser extent EU corporations exploited a loophole. Through a process of building, assembling or manufacturing their products in Mexico/Canada those foreign corporations can skirt U.S. trade tariffs and direct U.S. trade agreements. The finished foreign products entered the U.S. under NAFTA rules.
Why deal with the U.S. when you can just deal with Mexico, and use NAFTA rules to ship your product directly into the U.S. market?
This exploitative approach, a backdoor to the U.S. market, was the primary reason for massive foreign investment in Canada and Mexico; it was also the primary reason why candidate Donald Trump, now President Donald Trump, wanted to shut down that loophole and renegotiate NAFTA.
This loophole was the primary reason for U.S. manufacturers to relocate operations to Mexico. Corporations within the U.S. Auto-Sector could enhance profits by building in Mexico or Canada using parts imported from Asia/China. The labor factor was not as big a part of the overall cost consideration as cheaper parts and imported raw materials.
If you understand the reason why U.S. companies benefited from those moves, you can begin to understand if the U.S. was going to remain inside NAFTA President Trump would have remained engaged in TPP.
As soon as President Trump withdrew from TPP the problem with the Canada and Mexico loophole grew. All corporations from TPP nations would now have an option to exploit the same NAFTA loophole.
Why ship directly to the U.S., or manufacturer inside the U.S., when you could just assemble in Mexico and Canada and use NAFTA to bring your products to the ultimate goal, the massive U.S. market?
From the POTUS Trump position, NAFTA always came down to two options:
Option #1 – renegotiate the NAFTA trade agreement to eliminate the loopholes. That would require Canada and Mexico to agree to very specific rules put into the agreement by the U.S. that would remove the ability of third-party nations to exploit the current trade loophole. Essentially the U.S. rules would be structured around removing any profit motive with regard to building in Canada or Mexico and shipping into the U.S.
Canada and Mexico would have to agree to those rules; the goal of the rules would be to stop third-party nations from exploiting NAFTA. The problem in this option is the exploitation of NAFTA currently benefits Canada and Mexico. It is against their interests to remove it. Knowing it was against their interests President Trump never thought it was likely Canada or Mexico would ever agree. But he was willing to explore and find out.
Option #2 – Exit NAFTA. And subsequently deal with Canada and Mexico individually with structured trade agreements about their imports. Canada and Mexico could do as they please, but each U.S. bi-lateral trade agreement would be written with language removing the aforementioned cost-benefit-analysis to third-party countries (same as in option #1.)
All nuanced trade-sector issues put aside, the larger issue is always how third-party nations will seek to gain access to the U.S. market through Canada and Mexico. [It is the NAFTA exploitation loophole which has severely damaged the U.S. manufacturing base.]
This is not direct ‘protectionism’, it is simply smart and fair trade.
Unfortunately, the U.S. CoC, funded by massive multinational corporations, is spending hundreds of millions on lobbying congress to keep the NAFTA loophole open.
The U.S. has to look upstream, deep into the trade agreements made by Mexico and Canada with third-parties, because it is possible for other nations to skirt direct trade with the U.S. and move their products through Canada and Mexico into the U.S.
Additionally, with Canada now joining TPP it has become impossible for the U.S. to remain in NAFTA and simultaneously conduct trade negotiations with TPP nations.
President Trump, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer well understand this structural problem. ONLY Trump, Ross, Mnuchin and Lighthizer are willing to confront this problem. If Trump had lost the election, Clinton would have joined the multinationals and U.S. workers would have suffered greatly.
Lastly, the issue of Canada and Mexico making trade agreements with other nations (especially China), while brokering their NAFTA position with the U.S. as a strategic part of those agreements, is a serious issue that cannot adequately be resolved while the U.S. remains connected to NAFTA.
At the conclusion of Round #6, this was the direct issue at the heart of a very frustrated U.S.T.R. Lighthizer’s strongly worded response to Canada:
[…] In another proposal, Canada reserved the right to treat the United States and Mexico even worse than other countries if they enter into future agreements. Those other countries may, in fact, even include China, if there is an agreement between China and [Canada]. This proposal, I think if the United States had made it, would be dubbed a “poison pill.” We did not make it, though. Obviously, this is unacceptable to us, and my guess is it is to the Mexican side also. (read full remarks)
So you see, if you just look at the pure economics of the options, and you remember that President Trump is constitutionally antithetical to anyone having influence over U.S. interests other than the American people inside the United States, you can clearly see there is only one-way this entire process ends.