Say anything â literally anything â to sway working-class voters. Get elected, then loot the country. Hey, it worked for thisÂ guy.
If there was a singularÂ issue Trump campaigned on, it was trade. Everywhere he went, Trump sworeÂ the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was âthe worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhereâ and âa rape of our countryâ â and whatever else he needed to say to sway working-class voters who felt betrayed by our economy and our trade deals.
Like other candidates before him, TrumpÂ wanted to winÂ votes in places like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and other states devastated by the loss of manufacturing jobs to âtrade.â
In his speeches he complained that candidate Hillary Clinton had aligned herself with aâfinancial eliteâ to âbetrayâ working people.
âGlobalization has made the financial elite who donate to politicians very wealthy. But it has left millions of our workers with nothing but poverty and heartache.[. . .] Hillary Clinton and her friends in global finance want to scare America into thinking small â and they want to scare the American people out of voting for a better future.
My campaign has the opposite message.
Later, he outlined specific complaints about the content of trade agreements, referring to Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) signed by President Obama, but clearly he meantÂ multilateral trade deals in general. He said theseÂ trade deals had left decision-making to âan international commissionâ and that they do nothing about âcurrency cheaters.â
The âinternational commissionâ he refers to is a provision in trade agreements knowns as Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), more commonly known as âCorporate Courts.â
It would give up all of our economic leverage to an international commission that would put the interests of foreign countries above our own.
It would further open our markets to aggressive currency cheaters.
Specifically about ISDS provisions,
The TPP creates a new international commission that makes decisions the American people canât veto.
These commissions are great Hillary Clintonâs Wall Street funders who can spend vast amounts of money to influence the outcomes.
Of course, that was then.
Trump, who campaigned promising to âdrain the swampâ in Washington, hasÂ filled his administration with the very swamp creatures his voters hated. Billionaires, Goldman Sachs executives, lobbyists,Â and so on.
Now the veryÂ âfinancial eliteâ he railed about during the campaign appears to be having itsÂ way with him on trade. If the details in a draft letter circulated to members of Congress this week are true, Trump is not scrapping NAFTA after all.
In fact, heâs not even addressing what he had said were his biggest concerns in the trade agreement. A NY Times report explains,
Rather than scrap NAFTAâs arbitration tribunals, regarded by some free-trade critics as secretive bodies that give private corporations unbridled power to challenge foreign governments outside the court system, the letter proposed to âmaintain and seek to improve proceduresâ for settling disputes.
It made no mention of currency policy, an issue many trade experts had thought might be on the table.
Trump wants minor tweaks to the agreement. ISDS still there. Nothing about currency. Too bad. Sad!
âThe Same Corporate Wish Listâ
There were a number of reactions to Trumpâs NAFTA reversal.
âMostly what I see here is the same corporate wish list and a set of international rules that work quite well for global corporations,â Â said the AFL-CIOâs trade policy specialist, Celeste Drake, toÂ Politico.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka weighed in as well:
This draft leaves standing the worst and most oppressive parts of NAFTA. It leaves in place the right of foreign investors to sue the U.S. in private tribunals in order to skirt health, safety and environmental laws. On other important issues, including rules of origin for automobiles, labor and environmental standards, currency misalignment and procurement, the draft plan is either silent or so vague that it could be describing the now defunct Trans-Pacific Partnership â an agreement working people wholeheartedly opposed.
Rewriting the rules of our economy, and specifically changing the way we do trade, was one of the most important issues that voters went to the polls on. If the president wants to keep his promises, he needs to bring that same tough stance he had on the campaign trail to renegotiating Americaâs trade deals.
Politicoâs Morning Trade carried reactions from Democrats in Congress:
Rep. Bill Pascrell, the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee, called it âbafflingâ that the draft left out currency manipulation, which Trump had made a signature campaign issue â âlet alone call for strong and enforceable commitments.â âAnd I do not get the sense that the administration yet understands the importance of ensuring full implementation of international labor standards in Mexico to ensure the competitiveness of U.S. workers in the North American market,â the New Jersey lawmaker added in a statement.
So there it is. The guy who set up Trump University has now set up the Trump administration. It is staffed by family members, Breitbart editors, kooks, and, of course, the upper crust of the very âfinancial eliteâ he supposedly ran against.
After scarcely two months in office, the new administration is under investigation for violations ranging from breaking ethics rules to corruption and espionage. TrumpÂ has spent roughly a third of his time as president vacationing at his Mar-a-Lago golf resort in Florida and other Trump properties, with the government paying aÂ huge tab â to him â for Secret Service, staffers and others who are along for the ride.
He said what he had to say to win. Now weâre stuck.
This post originally appeared on ourfuture.org on March 31, 2017. Reprinted with Permission.
Dave Johnson has more than 20 years of technology industry experience. His earlier career included technical positions, including video game design at Atari and Imagic. He was a pioneer in design and development of productivity and educational applications of personal computers. More recently he helped co-found a company developing desktop systems to validate carbon trading in the US.