Pretend President Pretends To Can NAFTA, Let's Pretend To Clap!

Before we get down to making dick jokes about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), let's remind ourselves of the ground rules.

  • Rule Number 1: Donald Trump thinks he's the yuuuuuugely bestest dealmaker in the world.
  • Rule Number 2: Donald Trump is actually shit at negotiating deals.
See, Donald Trump hates multi-lateral deals. In his lizard brain, we can't all be stronger if we work together. Every deal must have winners and losers, so the only way for the US to WIN BIGLY is to force each country to negotiate a separate deal, preferably one that leaves our smaller trading partners at a massive disadvantage. And in his "mind," it's always 1981, so why wouldn't France want to crash out of the EU and make a separate deal with the US? (Yes, he literally suggested this to Emmanuel Macron. Oui, nous sommes morts de honte.)

"See if you can make a deal with Mexico," Trump barked.

"Yessir! Right away, of course!" said the minions. And then they all went back to renegotiating a three-country NAFTA, because they're not batshit fucking crazy loons trying to crash the global economy with a trade war.

But it turns out trade deals are hard. Other countries don't just roll over and let you grab them by the auto parts. So the December deadline passed, then the March and May ones. And then there was A PROBLEM, because those crazy Mexicans, some of whom we assume are good people, elected a new, leftwing, populist president named Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), who promised to take a hard line with the US on any future trade deals.
So, the aides crept back into the Oval Office to deliver the bad news.
"CUT THE CRAP, JUST GIVE ME THE BIG PICTURE!" Trump probably shouted. Then he sucked down a Diet Coke while his staff explained in monosyllables that AMLO will be sworn in on December 1, and he's unlikely to agree to any modification of NAFTA signed by the current president Enrique Peña Nieto. Since the US Congress requires 90 days notice before approving any trade deal, that means that a new agreement would have to be ready by this Friday, August 31. And after they'd repeated the process for another five cans of soda, Trump had worked out A PLAN.
How 'bout we pry off Mexico for separate negotiations, and then five minutes before the buzzer present the deal to Canada and tell them, "Take it, or leave it"? Yeah, it's a dumb plan. But that's how Donald Trump wound up in a press conference this morning waving around a handful of concessions on car manufacturing from Mexicans and pretending it was a fully negotiated bilateral trade deal to replace NAFTA.

And hey, since all these reporters are here in the Oval, let's check in with our buddy Enrique. Enrique, are you there?

How 'bout now? Oh, you are there? And you're not signing shit without Justin? Oh, Enrique, you're such a kidder!

¡Ay, por Dios!

Despite Trump's bizarre assertion that Mexico will immediately start buying "as much farm product as they can" from US farmers, the bulk of the proposed agreement appears to involve auto-manufacturing. WaPo reports,

In recent days, U.S. and Mexican diplomats reached agreement on key elements of a new treaty, including an increase in the percentage of each car -- to 75 percent from the current 62.5 percent -- that must be made in North America to qualify for duty-free treatment.

The two sides agreed to a provision that would require a significant portion of each vehicle to be made in high-wage factories, a measure aimed at discouraging factory jobs from leaving the United States for Mexico.

Negotiators also resolved a dispute over how to treat cars and trucks produced in Mexican plants that do not comply with the new treaty's content rules. American companies importing those vehicles will pay a 2.5 percent tariff.

Which is all well and good, except that we're all expected to applaud like trained seals and shout, "Hosanna, our God King has given us three vaguely worded, one-page fact sheets, which is an excellent replacement for a 1,700-page omnibus trade deal!" Also, there's the small matter of Canada.

via Daniel Dale Twitter

Riiiiiiight. If you want to feel really humiliated, check out the tick tock in Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale's Twitter feed. Maybe we can all apply for asylum? (Or check into one.)

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland was already en route to DC for tri-lateral trade discussions, which may or may not produce an agreement by Friday. But come hell or high water, Donald Trump will be presenting something to Congress on Friday and touting it as a super-excellent replacement for NAFTA. Or maybe his aides will just distract him with a hot sack of Big Macs, and hope he forgets all about it. WHO THE HELL KNOWS!

Shit, maybe it will even work! Mexico seems to be signaling a willingness to sign a bilateral deal if the US and Canada can't work out their differences in the next 104 hours.

But right now, Trump's got an agreement to talk about making an agreement and just a few minutes left on the clock. Which means he's got JACK SHIT.

Third verse, same as the fuckin' first.

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[Toronto Star / Daniel Dale Twitter / WaPo]

Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.


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