Amidst the Tale of Sound and Fury, Trump Reveals His Lack of Concern for His Own Trade Deal
by D.J. McGuire
There has already been quite a bit of bandwith already spent on the president’s Rose Garden Rant last week. One item appears to have gone largely unnoticed, however: just how utterly unimportant the president finds the USMCA trade accord.
The day prior, Trump insisted that the USMCA was a must-pass before he would consider any infrastructure deal with Congressional Democrats (Politico):
On the eve of a highly anticipated meeting with Democrats at which President Donald Trump was expected to unveil a way to fund a $2 trillion infrastructure proposal, Trump instead put Congress on notice that it will have to take a backseat to a trade deal.
“Before we get to infrastructure, it is my strong view that Congress should first pass the important and popular USMCA trade deal,” Trump wrote in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer Tuesday evening.
Whatever one may think of USMCA (I’ve noted my doubts before), at least Trump made it clear that the agreement was important to him – especially as this came just after he dropped steel and aluminum tariffs against Canada and Mexico. Senator Chuck Grassley, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, had made it a condition of his support for the deal (The Hill):
“I made no secret that these tariffs had to be lifted for USMCA to pass Congress. The Trump administration has done its part. Now it’s Congress’s turn.”
Well, it may have been “Congress’s turn” on Tuesday, but Trump had his own turn of events Wednesday (CNBC):
President Donald Trump abruptly walked out of a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., at the White House on Wednesday, telling reporters moments later that he would not negotiate on legislation with Democrats while he was still under investigation by several committees.
Wednesday’s meeting was supposed to be the second official sit-down between the president and Democratic congressional leadership specifically focused on infrastructure.
“I walked into the room and I told Sen. Schumer and Speaker Pelosi, ‘I want to do infrastructure’ … but we can’t do it under these circumstances,” Trump said at a last-minute Rose Garden event.
Hesto presto, USMCA is out the door and “stop the investigations” is the new condition for infrastructure.
On one level, of course, this reveals just how much Trump personalizes…well, everything.
On another level, however, it also reveals just how little he cares for his own trade agreement. After all, “Tariff Man” thinks “trade wars are good and easy to win.” Trade deals are, at best, malleable to him – or, in this case, flat out unimportant.
This shouldn’t be ignored (but it likely will be ignored anyway) by Trump defenders who pretzelize themselves into insisting the tariffs are all about getting to “better deals.” If Trump really thought USMCA was a better deal he wouldn’t dispose of it as a requirement for an infrastructure agreement so quickly.
As it is, Trump likely thinks withdrawal from NAFTA would be his Plan B (or perhaps even his Plan A). Congress needs to be ready to assert its power on the matter and remind everyone that NAFTA only goes away if Congress repeals the Implementing Bill it passed in 1993.