by Robert Romano
“Mexico, whose laws on immigration are very tough, must stop people from going through Mexico and into the U.S. We may make this a condition of the new NAFTA Agreement. Our Country cannot accept what is happening! Also, we must get Wall funding fast.”
That was President Donald Trump on Twitter on April 23, saying that any new deal on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) will be contingent on Mexico getting a handle on illegal immigrants pouring over the southern border.
It will also be contingent on Congress getting its act together to build the southern border wall.
Once again, Trump is demonstrating that he understands the leverage he possesses absolutely correctly, daring Congress and Mexico to ignore the illegal immigration problem to its own detriment. All but saying, that’s a nice trade agreement you have there, shame if anything were to happen to it.
Anyone who still doubts President Trump’s resolve at this stage to get better deals for the American people has not been paying attention.
Trump pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and has reaffirmed just last week that it’s for good as he spoke of working on a bilateral trade deal with Japan instead.
Trump withdrew from the Paris climate accords.
Trump decertified the Iran nuclear deal and now is considering actively withdrawing from it.
Trump challenged the NATO alliance to spend more for its own defense and the allies have responded.
Trump only gave South Korea an exemption from the 25 percent steel tariff after it agreed to stop steel dumping and allow more U.S.-made automobiles into its economy.
As for Canada and Mexico, Trump has said their exemptions from the steel and also the 10 percent aluminum tariff are contingent on working in good faith on NAFTA renegotiations.
Trump has also applied real pressure, in concert with China, on North Korea. A summit is planned, but Trump has said if it’s not a good deal on denuclearization, the U.S. will withdraw.
These are real applications of American power on the world stage. They are not the words of somebody who is bluffing.
The President alone can conclude treaties and other foreign agreements. NAFTA itself makes clear in via Article 2205 that the U.S. reserves the right to leave.
President Trump is not bluffing. Do not doubt him.
So, if the President says if Mexico does not start getting illegal immigration under control coming across the southern border, including the caravan of Hondurans still making its way north, then NAFTA is at stake, he means it.
If he says Congress had better provide funding for the southern border wall, he means it.
That is, if they truly love NAFTA, which is something of a holy relic in the D.C. swamp. Given the scorn that was heaped upon Trump in 2016 for opposing NAFTA — as the American people, particularly in the Rust Belt cheered and gave him their votes — you might come away with the impression that some members of Congress would sell their own children to keep NAFTA.
Surely, then, Congress could find the funds to fully fund construction of the southern border wall. And Mexico can get control of its side of the border.
Sometimes, proper incentives are needed to get something done. Taking NAFTA hostage may be just the right prescription for President Trump. Let’s see if Congress and Mexico start to move. It might take a few more tariffs before they get the message.
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Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.