Another Trump Fail

Trump blew the Friday deadline for sending a revised “just don’t call it NAFTA” deal to Congress. As explained a few days ago, if Trump’s going to get a new NAFTA deal before the new Mexican president is inaugurated, he needed to get something to Congress to approve by yesterday. And he didn’t.

The sticking point appears to have been some Trump tough talk about Canada that leaked out. A “just don’t call it NAFTA” deal could still be salvaged if he can get the complete text of a final deal — not a preliminary one — to Congress by the end of September, this article says. But if he can’t get Canada on board he can kiss that off. It’s unlikely Congress would approve a “half NAFTA” deal, and the current president of Mexico has indicated he wants Canada in on the current deal.

Daniel Dale wrote for the Toronto Star:

Trump made his controversial statements in an Oval Office interview with Bloomberg News on Thursday. He said, “off the record,” that he is not making any compromises at all with Canada — and that he could not say this publicly because “it’s going to be so insulting they’re not going to be able to make a deal.”

“Here’s the problem. If I say no — the answer’s no. If I say no, then you’re going to put that and it’s going to be so insulting they’re not going to be able to make a deal … I can’t kill these people,” Trump said of the Canadian government.

In another remark he did not want published, Trump said that any deal with Canada would be “totally on our terms.” He suggested he was scaring the Canadians into submission by repeatedly threatening to impose tariffs on imports of Canadian-made cars.

“Off the record, Canada’s working their ass off. And every time we have a problem with a point, I just put up a picture of a Chevrolet Impala,” Trump said. The Impala is produced at the General Motors plant in Oshawa, Ont.

Bloomberg agreed to the off-the-record request. Nobody has said how the Toronto Star got the quote. But then the box of rocks for brains in the White House tweeted:

Pretty much confirming that, yeah, that’s what he said.

Trump wants to believe he doesn’t need Canada.

Days of high-stakes talks between Canada and the US have faltered, failing to yield a revamped North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) before a Friday deadline set out by Washington.

On Saturday morning, Donald Trump tweeted: “There is no political necessity to keep Canada in the new NAFTA deal. If we don’t make a fair deal for the U.S. after decades of abuse, Canada will be out. Congress should not interfere w/ these negotiations or I will simply terminate NAFTA entirely & we will be far better off.”

The next question is, can he do that? Unlike the Paris climate agreement, NAFTA is legislation passed by Congress. And for that reason, it appears Congress could block him.

Under NAFTA rules, Trump can unilaterally withdraw from the agreement by giving Mexico and Canada six months’ notice. But Congress also has a say, since it ratified and implemented the agreement through legislation. Congress can fight to keep that legislation — the rules governing the way that the US trades with Mexico and Canada under NAFTA — intact. It can also pass new laws designed to boost its own authority over trade agreements. It may even be able to pass a law that preemptively eliminates Trump’s ability to unilaterally give Canada and Mexico notice of withdrawal.

If Congress was able to pass any of these bills, Trump would be in a tough situation. He’d risk a rupture with huge swaths of the GOP if he vetoed the bill. And if they formed a veto-proof majority, he’d be neutered by his own party on one of his key policy priorities.

And Republicans don’t want NAFTA to end. They really, really don’t; their corporate backers and armies of lobbyists are striving mightily to keep NAFTA alive. Democrats are said to be more ambivalent (I question that), but even those who don’t love NAFTA don’t want it to end abruptly because of the chaos that would cause.

Seems to me Trump is setting himself up for a cascading and catatrophic fail. Without Canada, he’s probably screwed with the “just don’t call it NAFTA” project. Congress could very well decide not to approve a “half NAFTA.” Mexico might even decide to withdraw from the preliminary agreement without Canada, in which he wouldn’t even have a side deal. If he tries to withdraw unilaterally, Republicans in Congress are going to have to choose between the corporate donors/lobbyists and Trump.

I believe Trump would lose that one, although it’s hard to say. How much political capital does he have right now? The events surrounding John McCain’s death have highlighted how abnormal he is. Polls are not exactly doing in his direction. More bombshells from the investigations will go off. But enough congressional Republicans may want to hang in with him until after the midterms that they won’t want to cross him on this.

From my Facebook friend Jeff Tiedrich: