Too good to be true? – probably so. Canadian Press survey suggests opening NAFTA is a Pandora’s Box…
NAFTA: Trump’s ‘tweak’ talk just empty talk? That’s what trade experts say
By Alexander Panetta – The Canadian Press
February 16, 2017
WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump gave reassuring words to Canada this week when he lauded an outstanding trading relationship and suggested that changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement would involve just minor “tweaking.”
Invited by The Canadian Press to analyze the president’s promise, a trio of trade experts agreed: that’s not a promise the president can make.
Presidents don’t singlehandedly control U.S. trade negotiations, they say — the process involves numerous actors, all of whom will push their own priorities.
The end result is a Pandora’s box: Either Trump keeps it closed, tinkering superficially with NAFTA through regulatory changes, or he opens it — and all sorts of issues start spilling out.
Here are their views on why Trump’s tweak talk could prove to be empty talk. ….
Peter Clark, trade strategist involved in Canada-U.S. Free Trade and NAFTA negotiations
‘‘He really doesn’t have a clue. Trade is all about detail — and (Trump) doesn’t strike me as being a details person…. He’s addressed it in a broad-brush approach, (like), ‘We want to make it easier to export.’ He also wants to make it more difficult to import. So I’m not sure the tweaking is necessarily going to help us. I don’t see the tweaking helping our dairy farmers and poultry farmers. I don’t see the tweaking helping our grape and wine industries. These are standard targets — they’re always after anything we happen to do differently, which has to, of course, be unfair, depriving Americans of their God-given right to dominate our market. He hasn’t got anybody at USTR (yet) — he hasn’t got Bob Lighthizer there, and Bob hasn’t nominated his four deputies that also have to be confirmed. Without those guys you can’t really do much…. Their normal practice is to ask stakeholders to indicate what they’d like them to do. There will be a lot of things on that list…. You can never count out Congress…. (Trump) can’t control what stakeholders want. Congress controls what stakeholders want (in the deal) because…. they always seem to be in election mode… You get hit by surprises. (New issues) get traction. I can’t anticipate what the problems are going to be, but there’s going to be problems…. That’s a Pandora’s box — once you open it, everything’s open. How can you say, ‘We want to reopen NAFTA for you, you and you — and all you other guys, go play in the traffic?’ You can’t do that.’’
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