I’ve been a card-carrying member of the Labor Movement of a long, long time. The organization, however, can be doctrinaire and retrograde in its thinking. Unlike my brothers and sister, for example, I supported the NAFTA treaty. Yes, I acknowledged there’d be a disruption in the labor force and regret so little thought was put into transitioning displaced workers. But, overall, the American economy has benefited.
The Trans Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) would have set up a similar trading relationship with our Asian neighbors. I admit I was wary of it, primarily because the terms were secret. But the idea of a trade agreement with our Asian neighbors would be a democratic counterweight to China’s dominance in the area, at the very least.
Let us remember, Clinton’s NAFTA agreement came on the cusp of e-commerce. Without the protections it afforded, a new economy would have overwhelmed us like water from a broken dam. Clinton may not have understood all the ramifications of that agreement, but he knew enough to see the tide of commerce was turning. That’s leadership.
Today, we have a president who looks backward rather than forward. In an evolving electronic world, he believes the country will thrive with 19th and 20th century rules. He would build walls, both real and political, restrict immigration and tear down current treaties, believing our nation can thrive in isolation.
Fortunately, our NAFTA partners take a different view. They agree with Trump that the 25 years-old treaty needs to be updated. But they wish to move forward not backward. If Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has his way, he would bolster the power of unions, add rules to protect the environment and add regulations to enhance gender and indigenous rights. (“Trudeau Pushes for a Feminist NAFTA,” by Clair Zillman, Fortune, October, 2017 pg. 17.) As journalist, Clair Zillman remarks, Trudeau believes NAFTA isn’t just about trade. It’s about exporting values. (Ibid pg. 17.)
Our president, Donald Trump, may rue the day he suggested reopening the NAFTA agreement. I hope that’s true. Disappointment is what he deserves.