US President Donald Trump has hailed a “really good” trade deal with neighbour Mexico — it could be a precursor to a comprehensive relaunch of the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), which Trump had previously criticised.
Negotiations with the other Nafta partner, Canada, are ongoing.
Canada has clashed with the USA in recent months over tariffs on dairy, aluminium, and steel. Trump has threatened to impose further tariffs on trade with Canada, opening the prospect for a US-Mexico-only deal that definitively excludes them. The Mexican government insists it wants the agreement to remain three-way, with the Canadian government saying they will “only sign a new Nafta that is good for Canada”.
Nafta currently covers more than $1 trillion in trade. The new deal includes some concessions to Trump’s working-class base, such as a rule that between 40-45% of each car made under Nafta must be produced by workers earning at least $16/hour.
The rule is intended to prevent manufacturers moving or outsourcing production to Mexico, where wages are lower. The deal however still allows for the majority of production to be provided by low-wage workers, whether in Mexico or the US.
Rich Trumka, the President of the AFL-CIO, the USA’s main union federation, said, “Our enemy is not the workers in Canada or Mexico. Our enemy are the elites and Wall Streeters and the financiers in Mexico and the United States and Canada.”
This internationalist sentiment has not, however, been consistent or acted upon.
Trumka has even said Trump is “moving in the right direction” on trade. Unfortunately union leaders’ demands have focused more on demanding protectionist measures than cross-border solidarity and common struggle.