(Jeffrey Rothfeder – The New Yorker)
Among the awkward moments at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Donald Trump, on March 17th, was Trump’s assertion that “Germany has done very well in its trade deals with the United States, and I give them credit for it, but . . . it’s not exactly what you call good for our workers.” It was up to Merkel to explain to Trump that he didn’t have the facts straight. “When we speak about trade agreements . . . the European Union is negotiating those agreements for all of the member states of the European Union,” she said. And, perhaps more to the point, Germany has never had a trade deal with the U.S., nor has the E.U.
Trump’s trade ignorance was all the more remarkable considering that a centerpiece of his Presidential run was the argument that international trade deals had led to the downfall of the American worker, and that he alone could fix it. Soon, the Trump Administration is expected to start acting on those beliefs. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has indicated that, before the congressional recess on April 10th, he will advise lawmakers about plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, a twenty-four-year-old pact with Mexico and Canada that Trump has called “the single worst trade deal ever approved in this country.” This notification to Congress sets off a ninety-day period during which lawmakers provide recommendations, and after which the Administration can kick off talks with the other countries.
This week, Administration trade officials circulated in Congress a draft memorandum about what they intend to seek from a renegotiation of the trade pact. The memo is surprisingly even-tempered—not much different from what a Clinton Administration might have written, trade experts say—which seems at odds with the radically altered NAFTA that Trump continues to promise in his campaign-like stops around the country. Click here to read more.