Performance art of the deal. Trump and his NAFTA hostage play

Performance art of the deal

by digby

So this should work out well:
U.S. President Donald Trump said late Saturday that he will withdraw the United States from NAFTA “in the not-too-distant future” in a hardball attempt to pressure Congress into voting in favour of his new agreement with Canada and Mexico.

The original North American Free Trade Agreement would otherwise remain in place if Congress rejected or delayed the new agreement, which Trump calls the USMCA and Canada CUSMA or “the new NAFTA.” A Trump withdrawal would give Congress a take-it-or-leave-it choice between the new agreement — which is mostly the same as the original — or no agreement at all.

The new agreement has been criticized on various grounds by both Democrats and Republicans, leaving its prospects for passage uncertain. The Democrats, who will take control of the House of Representatives in January, have made clear that they do not plan to approve the agreement any time soon.

 Trump told reporters late last night he’ll be withdrawing from the original NAFTA to pressure Congress to accept the new agreement, giving them a choice of the new agreement or nothing. It’s unclear he can withdraw without congressional approval; some experts say yes, some no.

Trump’s announcement introduced new uncertainty into the continental trading relationship just a day after the leaders of the three countries held a signing ceremony for the new agreement, at which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the agreement "lifts the risks of serious economic uncertainty" that hovered over the negotiations themselves. Trump’s words suggested the state of bilateral trade will remain uncertain as long as the president is in office.

Advocates of free trade say a withdrawal would be a foolish gamble with the American economy. Trump has said he doesn’t see it that way, since he believes the economy was stronger without NAFTA than with it.

“Congress will have a choice of the USMCA or pre-NAFTA, which worked very well,” Trump told reporters on the flight back from the G20 summit in Argentina.

“Congress will have a choice of approving the USMCA, which is a phenomenal deal. Much, much better than NAFTA. A great deal,” he said. He again described NAFTA as a “disaster,” although the new deal he describes as “incredible” retains almost all of NAFTA's central features while making a smattering of substantial changes.

The Canadian government declined to comment on the record. An official said on condition of anonymity, “We are focused on our domestic ratification process and not a process that is internal to the U.S.”

Trump’s announcement is likely to displease businesses across the continent, which had hailed the new agreement for preserving tariff-free North American trade and for allowing them to make investment plans with some degree of confidence that the rules would not soon change.

It is unclear whether Trump has the power to actually withdraw the U.S. from NAFTA. Some experts say he does, some say he doesn’t. The move would undoubtedly be challenged in U.S. courts, which have not yet weighed in on the question.

Basically he's going to attempt to hold the economies of three countries hostage in order to force his will upon the US Congress. He's not doing it because it's such an important achievement --- it isn't. It's solely to demonstrate dominance. If they refuse to do his bidding he brings commerece over the two borders to a halt. If they go along (which is the pragmatic choice since the agreement is something of a farce) he gets to strut around and talk about his VICTORY and further myth that he's a great dealmaker to his gullible cult followers.

All of this is nothing but a performance that his power requires other players to join or let the world burn. It's a sick form of manipulation.