President Trump creates crises, then claims credit for solving them
President Trump’s specialty is to create crises and then claim credit for solving them. Last year, for example, he ratcheted up the rhetoric against Kim Jong Un — a.k.a. “Little Rocket Man” — threatening to rain “fire and fury” on North Korea. Trump now claims he and Kim “fell in love” after Kim sent him “beautiful letters,” and that, were it not for this bromance, “you’d be in a war” and “millions of people would have been killed.” In reality, no one thought a second Korean War was likely before Trump took office. That only became a serious risk because of his unhinged rhetoric.
Trump has applied this same template to the North
American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which he spent years lambasting as “the worst trade deal ever approved.” According to Bob Woodward’s book “Fear: Trump in the White House,” Trump was on the verge of pulling out of NAFTA in April 2017, and had to be talked back from the brink by senior aides. He grudgingly remained in the deal while launching high-pressure negotiations to rework it.
Lo and behold, just ahead of a U.S.-imposed deadline on Sunday night, the United States, Mexico and Canada agreed on a revamped NAFTA. Trump triumphantly proclaimed on Twitter that this was a “wonderful new Trade Deal,” “historic,” and “a great deal for all three countries.” “NAFTA is dead,” said White House trade adviser Peter Navarro. Long live the new United States-Canada-Mexico Agreement (USMCA).
In fact, the biggest change is the name of the trade deal, and it is not an improvement. Just try saying “USMCA.” It does not roll off the tongue the way “NAFTA” did. As for the substance, my Council on Foreign Relations colleague Benn Steil rightly describes the new agreement as “little more than margin edits.”
Trump’s biggest victory was in opening up slightly more of the Canadian dairy market for U.S. exports. This has long been an obsession for him. He complained in June: “Canada charges the U.S. a 270% tariff on Dairy Products! They didn’t tell you that, did they? Not fair to our farmers.” Trump was right about the Canadian tariffs. What he didn’t mention is that the United States still ran a $474 million dairy surplus last year, with U.S. farmers selling five times more dairy goods to Canada than U.S. consumers bought from Canada. In any case, milk products represent just 0.06 percent of U.S.-Canada trade, 99 percent of which was already tariff-free. (Source: Washington Post)