On the campaign trail, Donald Trump vowed to “rip up” the North American Free Trade Agreement. Now, he appears content to make a few tears around its edges.
A draft proposal of the White House’s goals for renegotiating the agreement, obtained by The Wall Street Journal, would leave many of its most controversial elements in place. While Trump as a candidate decried the threat that “international bankers” pose to American sovereignty, his proposal would retain NAFTA’s Investor State Dispute Settlement process — an arbitration system that allows international investors to sue countries (often, for passing laws that disadvantage their business interests) before private tribunals whose rulings cannot be appealed.
The proposal would also do nothing to address “currency manipulation” by America’s trade partners, another concern that figured prominently in Trump’s stump speeches.
Ironically, many of the draft’s proposed changes would make NAFTA more closely resemble the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 12-nation trade agreement among Pacific Rim countries that Trump withdrew the United States from, shortly after taking office. Such reforms include heightened enforcement of intellectual property rights, protections of digital trade, and requirements that state-owned firms operate in a commercial fashion.