Today’s headlines, surreally, include the Democrats unveiling articles of impeachment against President Trump—and lining up to support a revised version of his remake of NAFTA. It remains to be seen who rolled whom.
Over the course of several months, Democratic negotiators pressed Trump’s trade officials to improve the deal Trump negotiated. The revised deal, now endorsed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Ways and Means Chair Richie Neal, and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, reduces patent protection for prescription drugs, makes the guarantee of labor rights more enforceable, and improves the definition of tariff-free North American content.
What it does not do is fundamentally change the impact of the NAFTA framework on outsourcing of jobs and the shifting of production to Mexico, where wages are a fraction of those in the U.S. And the beneficial aspects of NAFTA are far outweighed by the viciously anti-worker and anti-union policies of Trump’s Labor Department. Those were not part of the negotiations.
Why did Democrats take this deal? First, Speaker Pelosi concluded that impeachment was taking up too much of the spotlight; she wanted to demonstrate that Democrats were also capable of substantive legislation. Second, Pelosi was under pressure both from “frontline” Democrats in districts carried by Trump and from corporate Democrats like Neal to get this done.
AFL-CIO President Trumka found himself in the position of the dog who chases cars and finally catches one. He kept insisting that there had to be significant improvements in Trump’s NAFTA. When some improvements were forthcoming, Pelosi demanded that he support the deal.
Pelosi has gambled that this will be a political winner for Democrats. Critics say that negotiators got too caught up in the logic of getting to yes, that few voters in swing districts know or care about the details of this deal, and that the main story will be a smiling Trump with even the president of the AFL-CIO supporting his deal. The Trump TV spot writes itself.
As the campaign unfolds, we’ll see who rolled whom. Now, back to impeaching the most corrupt president ever.