President-elect Donald Trump centered much of his campaign around his disdain for the North American Free Trade Agreement and what he said were its destructive effects on the U.S. economy. Trump's campaign motto to Make America Great Again involved dismantling NAFTA in favor of strong trade deals for the U.S.
Now as president-elect, Trump is walking back his pledge to undo NAFTA.
“I don’t think we’re looking to rip up NAFTA as much as we are looking to right-size it and make it fairer,” said Anthony Scaramucci, a senior adviser to Donald Trump, reports The Hill. “He’s got a great relationship, by the way, with the Mexican president. They talk regularly.”
"Mr. Trump is trying to help American workers, and unfortunately it would end up costing American consumers," Christopher Rogers, a global trade analyst at Panjiva, said of Trump’s campaign promise to scrap NAFTA, notes CNN.
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Such a decision would be "horribly disruptive,” added Doug Irwin, a Dartmouth College professor who worked on trade deals for President Ronald Reagan. “The fear would be that we would lose jobs, and we wouldn't regain jobs ... Reagan always said trade wars are not good for the economy."
Julian Ku, a law professor at Hofstra University, and John Yoo, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, note that as president, Trump could not simply pull out of NAFTA -- or even renegotiate it -- without congressional approval.
“If Trump simply announced that the United States was pulling out of NAFTA, all the U.S. laws that implemented it would remain unchanged,” Ku and Yoo write in the Los Angeles Times. “Trump would have effectively freed Mexico and Canada to impose trade barriers against our products while leaving in place our preferential treatment of theirs -- the worst trade deal in American history.”
“I don’t think anybody in the administration from the top to the bottom is looking for protectionism,” Scaramucci continued, notes The Hill. “We understand the economic harm and the impact that would take. I don’t think anybody in the administration is looking for quote-unquote tariffs, but I think they are a cudgel, if you will, to lay out there if we can’t get the trade deals to be right-sided to now benefit the American people.”