Is NAFTA circling the drain?

You always assume there is hope as long as negotiations continue—as they are for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) this week in Ottawa. The only problem is that the negotiators are not the decision makers. The final solution rests with an incompetent occupant in the White House. And you should not try to confront that gentleman with facts.

Mr. Trump promised his voting claque that he would dump NAFTA. While economists might reason that pulling out of NAFTA could destroy the American economy, his claque does not understand that. And many, if they did comprehend, would not care. To them, a pyrrhic victory is still a victory.

It is the same attitude as led to the self-destructive BREXIT in the United Kingdom. People who vote in anger often live to regret it.

But those NAFTA negotiators continue to pontificate as they enjoy the fine cuisine in Ottawa. The least involved are the Mexican participants who have serious concerns about the conditions they left behind in and around Mexico City. As the world comes to their aid after the devastating earthquake, one wonders when the American and Canadian aid is coming?

And we can really be puzzled at Canadian cabinet members who naively think this negotiation can be about environmental issues. Do they really think that Mr. Trump gives a damn? This is the climate-change denier who reopened the Appalachian coal mines to make his billionaire friends richer.

You have to hand it to the American negotiators. These people are going through the motions as though they mean it. There will be no complaints from Congress and the Washington clique over their efforts. One of the surprises is they might really drive a wedge between the Canadians and the Mexicans. If they can keep the Canadians on-side in forcing the Mexicans to equalize wages (with the southern U.S. at least), it could go a long way to stopping the steady drain of labour-intensive production south to Mexico.

The problem though dear friends is that the entire exercise is nothing but an interesting review of the concerns. We can hardly deny that some changes are needed but Mr. Trump does not care what we think. None of the changes proposed by Canada or Mexico will happen. The American negotiators are more interested in what they can possibly bully the other two countries into.

And the future of NAFTA will only be decided around the Resolute desk in the Oval Office.

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