Economy & Budget

Trump was smart to abandon NAFTA war, now let’s improve trade

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At the peak of my local political columnist career, my work appeared in three San Diego county dailies, three community weeklies and one occasional national outlet.

I did talk radio.

Television news sought out my comments on political and Hispanic issues. Community, service and political groups invited me to speak.

Then came the congressional vote on the North American Free Trade Agreement that President George H.W. Bush negotiated. Ronald Reagan pioneered the path to the tri-nation economic unification concept. Candidate Reagan proclaimed a free trade with Mexico and Canada platform during his presidential campaign.

{mosads}The issue inflamed passions among unionists, protectionists, buggy whip makers and Mexican haters to a high degree. My appearances before nonpartisan service groups like Rotary, Kiwanis and veteran groups were battles marked with verbal poison aimed at me personally. The Mexican haters were and are everywhere.


Needless to say, the haters drew a fierce response from me. 


Because …

I am a life member of the “Mean Green Machine” — the United States Marine Corps — and am educated at the priceless $33-a-semester San Diego State of the 1950s and 1960s. 

Armed with those two foundations, add the eons of pyramid building, science-oriented warriors of the Nahuatl (Na-wah-tel) tribes of Mexico whose blood runs through my veins; joined, of course, by the blood of courageous rogues, outlaws and soldiers of fortune that Hernando Cortez lured to Mexico in a relentless search for gold, silver and precious stones almost 500 years ago — and, conquest.

I stood before the Mexican haters motivated by a famous quote from my idol Marine Lt. General Chesty Puller who, when breathlessly informed by his men that that they were totally surrounded by Japanese forces on the island of Guadalcanal, declared: “All right, they’re on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front of us, they’re behind us … they can’t get away this time.”

How could anyone argue with the idea that the U.S., Canada and Mexico would form the greatest energy (oil, coal, wind and sun) producer in the world?

How could anyone argue with an economic alliance that would allow Americans and American cookie companies to buy Mexican sugar for a third of what they paid in 1993?

Conversely, how could anyone argue against opening the Mexican market to billions of dollars in corn and wheat shipments from the American Midwest?

Under the agreement the U.S. would be able to buy cement for building from the largest cement maker in the world for less thus cutting building costs of a growing America; how could anyone argue against that?

How could anyone argue with Corona beer being cheaper in our bars and restaurants?

But they did. 

An ugly alliance was formed by civil rights “leader” Jesse Jackson, commentator and ersatz presidential candidates Pat Buchanan and Ross Perot; it was called the “Halloween Coalition.” Their arguments were mostly baseless.

Perot and Buchanan suggested that the swoosh sound one heard was jobs fleeing to Mexico. Jackson lamented that his black flock would be replaced with cheap Mexican labor.

The year was 1993, almost 20 years after many American companies established subsidiaries in Mexico to take advantage of less expensive border skilled labor compared to much higher wage American unskilled labor. 

“Assembled in Mexico” products flowed into American outlets just as well-made but cheaper.

The entire American consumer population gained long before NAFTA. Nonetheless, its critics continued yapping like a pack of Chihuahuas.

Candidate Donald Trump, 2016 — denigrated NAFTA as a “horrible deal for the United States,” “the worst trade deal maybe ever” and “a defective agreement.”

President Trump — 2017 — sent Congress a letter declaring that the United States wishes to renegotiate NAFTA as per the agreement’s provisions, complete with a NAFTA required 90-day notice. 

Oops, what happened to Trump, as president, canceling NAFTA when he took office?

His new Secretary of Agriculture, former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue had a map showing which communities that voted for Trump would be devastated by canceling NAFTA; not only counties, but states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Wisconsin, the very states that elected Trump.

Canceling NAFTA would throw millions of the 14 million people that work in NAFTA trade out of work. Michigan-Wisconsin-Pennsylvania and most drastically Indiana would suffer huge manufacturing job losses.

Farmers would have no Mexico to send corn to. The federal government would have to spend billions to prop up farmers in Trump states.

Oh, the humanity.

Fortunately, grown-ups will be talking about modernizing NAFTA, not destroying it.

The critics have found voice again, they are everywhere yapping about NAFTA.

Raoul Lowery Contreras is the author of The Mexican Border: Immigration, War and A Trillion Dollars in Trade and Murder in the Mountains: War Crime at Khojaly, both published by Floricanto Press and his work was formerly distributed by the New York Times Syndicate.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags Bush Donald Trump Donald Trump Jesse Jackson Nafta Pat Buchanan Ronald Reagan Ross Perot

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