Everything You Should Know About Trump's NAFTA II: The NAFTENING

On Monday Trump waddled out to the Rose Garden to announce he'd renegotiated NAFTA into a big beautiful wall of money for all the poor schmoes in fly over country. Surrounded by the rejected Brooks Brothers models he calls his economic advisors (and Jared), Trump bragged that he'd just made "the biggest trade deal in the United States history." This brand-spankin' new NAFTA was so tremendously awesome it even needed a new unpronounceable acronym to add to DC's overflowing alphabet soup: "The United States, Canada, Mexico agreement" (AKA the USCMA).

"Nafta" is dead, God Emperor Trump has proclaimed! All hail, "Us-Cum-Ugh!"

Like everything else Trump has ever done, Trump stole someone else's homework, wrapped it in cheap foil, and stamped his name on top. Once you brush past all the "truthful hyperbole," most of the "deals" in the new NAFTA are proposals the Obama administration completed under TPP with an "As Seen On TV" sticker. Nobody even bothered to call it USCMA; the final proposal refers to itself as "NAFTA 2018" throughout the official document.

The US benefits are largely superficial; the only non-negligible benefit to the US is access to the super-secret Canadian milk market. While the deal doesn't necessarily break the knees of the very real Canadian dairy cartel, it does kick it right in the milk bags. The new proposal gives the US access to 3.6 percent of the Canadian dairy market, a thing people in Wisconsin constantly bitch about. Canada also agreed to end limits on the sale of powdered milk, so now all the expat preppers living in Saskatchewan can rejoice in dehydrated freedom. Easing the Canadian deathgrip on the dairy industry could be considered a win, but these were concessions Canada had already agreed to under TPP (thanks, Obama). Trump can brag about the windfall a couple factory farmers in Wisconsin will receive, but dairy is only .01 percent of all trade between the US and Canada. So after almost two years of Twitter tantrums and threats, Trump still caved to the Canadian milk mafia.

The only other change that stands out is new standards in the auto industry. In exchange for free access to US auto markets, cars must have 75 percent of their bits and pieces made in North America. In addition, 40 to 45 percent of car parts have to be made by workers who earn at least $16 an hour by 2023.

Since workers will be getting fair wages and manufacturers have fewer incentives to buy cheaper car parts overseas, bean counters think car manufacturers will pass the buck on to consumers. There's a fear that car makers have even less of a reason to make tiny cars for US markets, which could screw auto workers and consumers even more. Trump assumes raising the obscenely low wages for Mexican auto workers will encourage automakers to come back to the US, but it's far more likely manufacturers will just bail out instead of dealing with the new complicated rules. There's also no real guarantee that those wages won't be exclusive to white collar workers, or that automakersers say, "Fuck it," and opt to pay a penalty if it's cheaper than paying wages. Trump may have not only screwed Mexican auto workers, he may have screwed US workers too. Either way he'll still blame Hillary Clinton.

There's a couple of provisional agreements and side-hustles as well. A 16-year sunset clause and a periodic review every six years could prove beneficial, though this is a Trump deal. There's a relaxing of restrictions on wine sold in British Columbia, higher duty thresholds for traveling across the border, and protections for the so-called Chapter 19 provision that Trump wanted to kill so he could drag his ass all over Canada. While Trump will get to keep his idiotic steel tariffs, he did have to give up his stupid auto tariffs. Plus new digital rights protections, and sweetheart deals for the the national sportsball league, biotech industry, big pharma, and the oil companies mean Trump's donors will get their cut too.

Even if this does somehow pass Congress, it still needs to be ratified by Mexico and Canada. Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto will likely sign off before he leaves office in November, and the Canadian auto market could unapologetically lean on Justin Trudeau. But many Democrats have already signaled their unwillingness to cooperate, and free-traders want to puke every time Trump screams "America first," even if they hated NAFTA. On Sunday Jared had to rescue the deal from the buttery fingers of Robert Lighthizer, Trump's bumbling neo-nationalist trade negotiator, and it's unlikely he'd be able to do it again. The new NAFTA/"Us-Cum-Ugh" won't hit Congress until 2019 so there's no way of knowing what fresh hell awaits Trump when Democrats inevitably take control of the House, and possibly the Senate, but there's a better than zero chance we'll all be talking about this come January.

[ CBS News / Forbes / WaPo / WSJ / USCMA]

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Dominic Gwinn

Dominic is a broke journalist in Chicago. You can find him in a dirty bar talking to weirdos, or in a gutter taking photos.


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