Why the United States wants a new NAFTA

U.S. middle class wants things to change and NAFTA one of those targets says Ian McLean

Last week, on April 12, our Chamber hosted former Harper cabinet minister James Moore for a highly insightful discussion on a new North American trade agreement.

Mr. Moore was Minister of Industry from 2013 to 2015, so he provides a unique perspective on Canada-U.S. relations. A significant portion of his presentation was directed at the evolution of political, economic and social change across the United States that has lead to the current renegotiations of NAFTA.

According to Moore, Canada and Mexico have been reasonably content with NAFTA since it was first effective in 1994. The United States, though, has raised concerns in the past, and the election campaign of 2016 brought these issues to the front of the national political agenda.

Driving the change have been the frustrations of an American middle class who have witnessed the collapse of many long-held beliefs and institutions. Examples he used were the National Football League and Major League Baseball, where mishandling of concussions and steroid use have seriously shaken their credibility and trust across the American public.

Not only were Americans losing trust and confidence in their institutions, they were losing ground financially. The subprime mortgage crisis left millions without homes. By the presidential election campaign of 2016, voters were furious and looking to vent their frustrations.

Generally, during the campaign, NAFTA became the focal point for everything that was wrong with America and the world.  Analysts and pollsters quickly noted that a trade agreement with Canada and Mexico was suddenly a huge and divisive issue, and Trump capitalized far better on this pattern than the Democrats did.

Turning to the current negotiations, the U.S. interests include an end to their trade deficits, new rules of origin for auto manufacturing, and an end to supply management, particularly in the dairy sector. Canada is seeking chapters on gender diversity, the environment, Indigenous rights and labour.

However, despite the vast range and differences of interests in all three nations, an agreement in principle is anticipated in the next 30 to 60 days. The biggest issue, according to Mr. Moore, is that bicameral support is required in Canada, Mexico and the United States, which means six governance bodies have to agree.

The key point is that going forward the United States with or without a new NAFTA is a significantly different nation than a decade ago. Voters wanted change and positively or negatively it is being delivered.

This article was written by Ian McLean for the Waterloo Chronicle. Read the original article here.