So here’s a crazy thought.
What if all our national hand-wringing over the current North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations was just a big waste of time because the U.S., or more specifically its current leader, has no intention of making a deal?
Silly right? I mean, why have all those negotiators from three countries working on a deal that will never happen?
Well right up to the time President Donald Trump (still feel like washing my keyboard after writing that) quashed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, another multi-lateral trade deal, people were working on it.
Wasted time is not a problem for Trump, who spent the weekend successfully inciting a culture clash with tweets and rants about professional athletes and team owners rather than dealing with apocalyptic storm damage in various parts of his country, finding a health care solution that doesn’t include taking it away from millions of people or calming tensions with that other country run by a nuclear-armed loon.
The most revealing moment around the aforementioned NFL controversy (in a nutshell [pardon the pun] Trump told a crowd at a rally that NFL owners should fire players [he had a ruder term for them] who decline to stand for the national anthem in protest of race-based police brutality) may have come Monday night at dinner with conservative group leaders at the White House, where media reports indicate the president stated, “It’s really caught on. It’s really caught on.”
It’s as if all the symbolic statements of solidarity that were in reality a collective raising of middle fingers to Trump on Sports fields across the U.S. on Sunday and the tons of vitriol spewed across all manner of media platforms were Trump’s goal and represented some sort of accomplishment.
That Trump uses moments like his NFL rant to reassure his base he’s still their guy, and to deflect from more damaging controversies like the near-certainty he’s a Russian plant, or that his own family members have been doing government business on private email accounts (so far no call to “lock them up” from the faithful right) is a popular theme among the punditry.
Trump has already used NAFTA as one of this rally hot buttons. In August, less than one week into the renegotiation of the trade agreement, he stated at a rally in Arizona, “I think we’ll end up probably terminating NAFTA at some point.”
Interestingly, last week’s News from Canada’s negotiators was that the U.S. team seemed slow to deliver specifics of its demands for raising U.S. content in auto-manufacturing and agriculture country of origin rules.
Admittedly, it seems a bit cynical to suggest such potentially controversial details are being withheld until they can be used as handy excuses for walking away from the table. However Trump has trash talked the deal on numerous occasions and telling all the negotiators “You’re fired!” would certainly set off a massive controversy which might dominate enough News cycles to cover for the next inevitable embarrassment headed his way.
So here’s a crazy thought.