U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrival ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C., March 10, 2016.
Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

NAFTA negotiations aren’t exactly going well for Team Trump


In the spring, as Donald Trump’s presidency reached the 100-day mark, he was reportedly looking for some kind of bold and dramatic action – and he settled on canceling the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) As Trump acknowledged in April, “I was all set to terminate. I looked forward to terminating. I was going to do it.”

As we’ve discussed, this obviously didn’t happen, thanks in large part to conversations the American president had with his Canadian and Mexican counterparts.

Instead, officials from the three North American countries are engaged in ongoing talks to update the trade agreement, and by all accounts, the NAFTA negotiations aren’t going especially well, and already expected to go well beyond their original deadline. The CBC reported this morning on one of the problems plaguing the process:

The source says it appears some members of the U.S. delegation are uncomfortable with the demands they are presenting, which appear to have been dictated to them by the Trump administration.

“They don’t like what they are doing,” says the source, who was not authorized to speak about the talks on the record.

There also appears to be a sense of confusion about the overall U.S. vision for NAFTA and who is really running the show.

I haven’t seen comparable reports from U.S. news outlets, but this story out of Canada is very easy to believe.

Remember, the Trump administration never really established clear goals for the talks; it dispatched lower-level staffers to participate in the negotiations; and the White House has reportedly stressed “top-line demands that are generally symbolic rather than substantive in nature.”

The problem is a familiar one: Trump never really figured out what it is about NAFTA he doesn’t like, so there’s no clear roadmap on how he wants to see it improved. If this sounds familiar, it’s because the American president has run into the same trouble on health care, the Iran deal, immigration, and a host of other foreign and domestic issues.

The result is a White House that seems eager to make policy, without knowing what, how, or why.