During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump took maximum stances on subjects that has lately been forced to abandon. One of them is NAFTA.

Making NAFTA Great Again

That’s short for the North American Free Trade Agreement that he called a disaster and declared he wanted to “terminate.” He changed his mind and said he’s now willing just to negotiate a better deal. And even that seems unlikely to change much of the reality of trade with  Canada and, especially, Mexico, partners in the 23-year old agreement.

In short, NAFTA is far from dead despite Trump’s bluster. One reason: farmers in regions of the US where Trump trounced Hillary Clinton have benefitted mightily because Mexican tariffs were eliminated or reduced on soy, corn and other farm products.

That puts Trump in a bind. He mainly criticized NAFTA for draining away US of manufacturing jobs to south. Farm exports was something he didn’t talk about. And those boomed in the Mexican market. So does Trump abandon the Rust Belt workers he promised to help by bringing back manufacturing jobs? Or does he satisfy the concerns of the Farm Belt interests that want to keep their market share with Mexico?

Threading that needle will be a sub-text of forthcoming North American trade re-negotiations. Don’t expect Trump to rip up NAFTA as he once promised to. He’ll be lucky if he can show even minor benefits to US manufacturing. It would be better for him to focus on retraining workers hurt by NAFTA and improving US education–things the original promoters of free trade  promised but failed to deliver.

VOA says Trump will have to fake it because of farmers.

Free trade put rice into the mix, along with a corn and soy bean salad.

Wharton School says, as a whole, NAFTA probably better for Mexico than US .

Mexico plays China card.




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