Is Bernie Sanders the most powerful candidate of the year? The Vermont Senator hasn’t only pulled the Democratic nominee his direction on a host of progressive issues; Sanders has also pulled Donald Trump to his position on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Here’s Trump yesterday, predictably trying to translate Brexit into NAFTA? Don’t HAFTA!
I’m going tell our NAFTA partners that I intend to immediately renegotiate the terms of that agreement to get a better deal for our workers. And I don’t mean just a little bit better, I mean a lot better. If they do not agree to a renegotiation, then I will submit notice under Article 2205 of the NAFTA agreement that America intends to withdraw from the deal [Donald Trump, speech transcript, in Politico, 2016.06.28].
Note Trump’s tacking of –otiate onto the renege he was preaching on NAFTA just a few months ago, when he said he would impose tariffs on foreign goods in blatant violation of our trade agreements. Trump is now adopting the somewhat more sober position advanced by Sanders in April:
If elected president, Bernie Sanders would not simply ignore the trade deals he has called “disastrous,” but would instead renegotiate them with partner nations, according to an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Donald Trump, another free trade critic in the 2016 presidential race, has vowed to violate the North American Free Trade Agreement and World Trade Organization treaties by imposing tariffs that clearly violate the deals. Sanders, by contrast, has more respect for the conventions of international law. He told the paper that he would maintain the existing deals as he sought to replace them.
“They should be renegotiated,” Sanders told the Inquirer. “We have an agreement, legally we have agreement. But they should be renegotiated” [Zach Carter, “Bernie Sanders Says He Would Renegotiate NAFTA, Not Violate It,” Huffington Post, 2016.04.08].
Trump is rejecting Ronald Reagan’s free trade legacy:
Ronald Reagan first proposed a free trade agreement between the U.S. and Mexico in his 1980 presidential campaign. Since that time, The Heritage Foundation is proud of the role it has played in articulating President Reagan’s vision of free trade in Latin America and around the world [Michael G. Wilson, “The North American Free Trade Agreement: Ronald Reagan’s Vision Realized,” The Heritage Foundation, 1993.11.23].
Add Trump’s call to kill the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and Trump is now closer to socialist Bernie Sanders than to the Republican Party’s own platform from 2012:
International trade is crucial for our economy. It means more American jobs, higher wages, and a better standard of living. Every $1 billion in additional U.S. exports means another 5,000 jobs here at home. The Free Trade Agreements negotiated with friendly democracies since President Reagan’s trailblazing pact with Israel in 1985 facilitated the creation of nearly ten million jobs supported by our exports.
…A Republican President will complete negotiations for a Trans-Pacific Partnership to open rapidly developing Asian markets to U.S. products. Beyond that, we envision a worldwide multilateral agreement among nations committed to the principles of open markets, what has been called a “Reagan Economic Zone,” in which free trade will truly be fair trade for all concerned [Republican Party Platform, 2012, pp. 5–6].
Our Canadian friends note that threatening to pull out of NAFTA again demonstrates that Trump doesn’t have any practical idea of what he’s talking about. But the primary season showed that Trump doesn’t need practical ideas; he needs to push the emotional buttons that get him free press, divide the opposition, and win an angry plurality.
If TransCanada uses NAFTA to win damages (with Marty Jackley’s sideways help?) against the United States for rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline (read TransCanada’s NAFTA complaint requesting over $15 billion), that plurality could get bigger and angrier, expanding beyond the arch-conservatives he’s dog-whistling with his scripted resistance to globalism… and it could include anti-trade, anti-fossil fuel Sanders people just itching for an excuse to buck Hillary Clinton’s wishy-washy triangulation on their issues.