With a new NAFTA, Trump’s norm-shattering favors labor for once

Trump announces new trade agreement.
Trump announces new trade agreement.

Donald Trump has smashed presidential precedents left and right -– almost exclusively to the benefit of the right.

The uppermost current example, of course, is his backing of an unhinged apparent sexual predator who would use a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court to fight for white patriarchy and unlimited executive power.

But the trade agreement Trump announced today includes some concessions to the labor movement that Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton — reflecting the globalist consensus long embraced by the bipartisan elite in Washington – saw as utterly anachronistic.

It also reflects a rejection of the deeply held view among previous presidents from both parties that the unfettered flow of capital and goods serves U.S. interests – despite the ample evidence that it favors giant multinational corporations and investors over American workers.

“Without tariffs, we wouldn’t be standing here,” Trump said Monday morning. And although he doesn’t seem to understand how tariffs actually work, he was probably right.

It’s too early to conclude anything with great certainty – the final text is only now being closely examined by third parties, and it’s likely there are all sorts of pro-corporate surprises to come, especially when it comes to patents and intellectual property.

But starting in 2020, the new deal would require “a car or truck must have 75 percent of its components manufactured in Canada, Mexico or the United States, a substantial boost from the current 62.5 percent requirement,” the Washington Post reports. “There’s also a new rule that a significant percentage of the work done on the car must be completed by workers earning at least $16 an hour, or about three times what the typical Mexican autoworker makes.”

Lori Wallach, the director of Public Citizen’s Trade Watch, and the dean of the anti-globalization/anti-free-trade activists, issued a statement that I’m pretty sure was more favorable than any she’s issued in my lifetime. “The new deal includes some important improvements for which we have long advocated, some new terms we oppose and more work required to stop NAFTA’s ongoing job outsourcing, downward pressure on our wages and environmental damage,” she said.

She called out “important progress… with the removal of investment terms that help outsource jobs and a dramatic reining-in of NAFTA’s outrageous corporate Investor State Dispute Settlement tribunals under which corporations have grabbed hundreds of millions from taxpayers after attacks on environmental and health policies.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump’s new strategy “seeks to win over labor unions long opposed to free-trade pacts, while maintaining support from business groups that have generally supported them.”

And Teamsters leader Jim Hoffa said in a statement that the union was “pleased” by the new agreement, noting “with approval the considerable progress on workers’ rights.” He said new labor requirements “contain obligations and protections that are superior to the original NAFTA, and also to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

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