There He Goes Again: On NAFTA Trump Fails To Live Up To What He Says, And American Workers Will Pay For It

It’s business as usual, not what he promised on the campaign trail. And damn few Democratic leaders have weighed in on this.
04/05/2017 04:23 pm ET
Chuck Jones and Raleigh Hall
Charles Deppert
Chuck Jones and Raleigh Hall

Chuck Jones, President, United Steelworkers Local 1999                                      

Raleigh Hall has spent the last 12 years as an assembler for a very profitable Rexnord Bearings plant in Indianapolis. He has a family of seven children, some of whom are still at home, but six months ago he learned his plant was headed to Mexico. Raleigh is caught not being able to find comparable work to support his family, yet knowing his job is ending within a few weeks. If he quit before being laid off, he would lose severance money, which he’ll need desperately. His longshot plan is to start a business, but the tension and uncertainty are breaking up his family. This is not uncommon in these situations.

President-Elect Donald Trump tweeted his outrage when the shutdown was announced. But President Trump hasn’t said a thing since. What’s more, neither Trump nor most of our political leadership have stepped up to bail out the thousands of families across Indiana who will see their livelihood go up in smoke this year while their profitable companies offshore their jobs.

And last week Trump revealed his administration isn’t interested in stopping this tragedy from continuing. The leaked letter draft to Congress about re-negotiating NAFTA made clear Trump’s not looking to replace it or leave it, but expand it. It’s business as usual, not what he promised on the campaign trail. And damn few Democratic leaders have weighed in on this.

In December, after spending a year exploiting the job loss at Carrier’s Indianapolis plant, Trump lied about how many jobs he was saving, and led hundreds of workers to believe their lives wouldn’t be destroyed.

We’ve seen his plans for NAFTA, and the American worker isn’t in it. We’re locked out again.

It was up to me to explain to them that no, the president-elect wasn’t being straight about what he did. Now, as the jobs at two of the plants we represent are headed to Mexico because of our country’s rigged trade deals, Trump is making it clear that the pain Raleigh Hall and his family are going through will keep happening. We’ve seen his plans for NAFTA, and the American worker isn’t in it. We’re locked out again. “The Administration seeks to increase our economic growth by making it more profitable to manufacture within the trading block.” First and foremost Trump’s goal for NAFTA is to bump up corporate profits from North American production, not focus on jobs for the United States.

The investor protections at the heart of NAFTA that promote American job offshoring will stay in place, making it easier to ship American jobs to Mexico. The document actually calls for expanded protections to make it easier to U.S. investors to relocate facilities.

And it leaves in place NAFTA’s ban on Buy American and other domestic procurement preferences, so our tax dollars will also get offshored instead of being reinvested to create manufacturing jobs here.

NAFTA is what has helped grease the skids for the hundreds of jobs in our Indianapolis Steelworker union local that are leaving as we speak. Trump wants to make it worse.

I could see it coming back in February when, speaking about what he had been calling the U.S.’s “worst trade deal ever,” and a “disaster”, he said NAFTA just needed “tweaking.”

You don’t “tweak” a “disaster.” You haul it out back and start over.

But the Los Angeles Times summed it up in their report on the letter. “The relatively minor changes to NAFTA would be a far cry from Trump’s campaign promise to dramatically reshape or withdraw from what he repeatedly called one of the worst trade deals ever negotiated by the U.S... Ironically, the draft also incorporates many of the elements in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 12-nation trade deal negotiated by President Obama that Trump also trashed and formally withdrew from shortly after he took office.”

“’They were very aware of who their customers are,’” a trade expert told the Times.  And Raleigh Hall isn’t one of their customers. No, the “customers” here are the investor class, who continue to get their protection from Trump, the Republican Party and too many Democratic fellow-travelers.

Really fixing NAFTA is not rocket science. If he were trying to help working people, Trump would eliminate NAFTA’s ban on Buy American and the investor offshoring protections and related enforcement tribunals under which corporations have already extracted more than $400 million from North American tax payers. He would create real labor, wage and environmental protections. This would improve living standards in all three countries. He would add currency rules and require all imports into our country to meet U.S. safety and environmental standards so corporations cannot benefit by harming consumers and the environment.

Trump can do it. He won’t, though, if we don’t get more Democratic politicians – at every level – calling him out on it.

CONVERSATIONS