Donald Trump disrupted the 2016 election and won many “forgotten Americans” in part by promising to fight for lower prescription drug prices and to tear up or renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) and any other trade agreement that disadvantaged American workers.
His rival for the presidency, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton was hamstrung by her inability to attack these deals: Her husband signed the first into law, while her former boss, President Barack Obama, campaigned to win ratification for the TPP. This restriction left room for candidate Trump to attack the secrecy and special interests that rigged U.S. trade deals to make it easier to outsource American jobs and to make trade a voting issue in the industrial battleground states.
But, ironically, the intensifying debate over the renegotiated NAFTA that President Trump is seeking to rebrand as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) suggests that the president’s trade policy is not so different from those of his predecessors. Certainly, the new coalition of 200 corporations and business lobby groups, including Citibank, the American Petroleum Institute and the American Farm Bureau Federation, that just launched a campaign to push Trump’s renegotiated North American trade deal through Congress doesn’t seem to think that there’s anything new in the deal that threatens business-as-usual.
And when told more about what is in “NAFTA 2.0,” voters in surveys and focus groups I’ve conducted this year for Public Citizen have second thoughts about the supposedly new and improved trade deal.