Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and the Canadian trade negotiating team were at the White House to continue NAFTA renegotiation talks in meetings throughout last week, but those talks failed, along with Trump’s informal deadline for Friday.
According to a Bloomberg report, on Friday the White House officially notified Congress that it plans to sign a bi-lateral deal with Mexico “in 90 days and would include Canada ‘if it is willing’ to be added to the new pact later.
Negotiations are set to resume between Canada and the U.S. next Wednesday, Bloomberg said, adding that “the White House wanted Ottawa to sign onto the preliminary agreement it struck with Mexico.”
“Over the next few weeks, Congress and cleared advisers from civil society and the private sector will be able to examine the agreement. They will find it has huge benefits for our workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses,” U.S Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement.”
But the idea that Canada would be left out of any new deal did not set well with some GOP lawmakers “who strongly support the existing NAFTA agreement…saying it has brought jobs to their states,” the Washington Post had reported last week.
No. 2 Republican Senator John Cornyn (TX), they said, added there could be “technical problems” with only a bi-lateral deal that leaves out Canada because “special fast-track provisions for trade allow bills to pass the Senate with a simple majority instead of the 60 votes often required for major legislation.”
“My hope is that Canada comes on board rather quickly … I hope we can get this done, and I hope Canada’s on board. Because that would eliminate some of the technical, procedural problems … that might otherwise arise.”
“Obviously, Canada’s got to be willing to reach an agreement, but it would be really shortsighted for us to have an agreement with only Mexico,” said Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan).
Senator Pat Tommey (PA-R) said, “NAFTA was enacted with legislation…Similarly, a change to NAFTA requires legislation.” The senator’s views seem to reflect “many of the free-trade Republicans in Congress” who expressed their views about any deal that didn’t include Canada.
So it was on Saturday morning President Trump, on his way to a Trump golf course in Virginia, threatened Congress he would unilaterally withdrawal from NAFTA if they failed to agree with him for a bi-lateral deal with Mexico by tweeting out that “congress should not interfere w/ these negotiations or I will simple terminate NAFTA entirely & we will be far better off…”
Trump is claiming to assert “his right to broker a new trade pact that does not include Canada despite opposition from lawmakers and questions over his legal authority to do so.”
“We make new deal or go back to pre-NAFTA!” Trump wrote in part in his next subsequent Twitter post.
According to Jennifer Hillman, who was a general counsel for U.S. Trade Representative under former President Clinton, “Trump can’t just pull out of NAFTA on his own. It took an act of Congress to get into NAFTA, and it will take an act of Congress to get out of it.”
Despite GOP Senate opposition, whether Trump does or does not have legal authority to unilaterally pull the US out of an existing trade deal enacted by Congress has neither been determined nor attempted yet, it is assumed it will be challenged if he attempts to go through with it.
On A Side Note Why It Matters (Opinion)
At this point it, I’m not sure that it does. It appears to only be one more of Trump’s empty suit rhetoric and posturing threats. Any ‘new’ trade deal Congress has to approve regardless, so I’m not quite sure he’s the one holding all the cards here as he probably believes, or any really. It boils down to whether or not the US Congress abdicate their legislative powers to the executive branch. If they did, that would be seriously short-sighted of them for when an opposing political party enters the White House.
In my further opinion, look at the time that tweet was sent out. This, to me, is nothing more than a desperate attention seeking ‘look at me!’ rants as he’s being shuffled off to play golf when other matters more important than him were going on.
Talks resume on Wednesday with Canada’s negotiating team. Who knows what this week will bring.