US Chamber of Commerce calls Trump’s NAFTA proposals ‘highly dangerous’

A powerful business group is urging the Trump administration to abandon a slew of what it considers 'dangerous' proposals in an update of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said Friday that the White House is pursuing polices that not only risk the support of a broad range of business groups but endanger the future of the 23-year-old agreement with Mexico and Canada.

"We see these proposals as highly dangerous, and even one of them would be sufficient to move the business and agriculture community to oppose an agreement that included them," John Murphy, senior vice president at the U.S. Chamber, told reporters, according to several reports.

Canada and Mexico also have balked at some of the ideas floated by U.S. trade officials.

"Withdrawing from the NAFTA would immediately blow up in the face of the administration," he said.

"Those would feel the pain most thoroughly and immediately are in states that voted for the president and they would know who brought this about," he said. 

"Today, we're increasingly concerned about the state of the negotiations," Murphy said.

President Trump has expressed disdain for NAFTA and has repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the deal if the U.S. doesn't get a fairer shake in the pact. 

Specific concerns include a call for increased U.S. domestic content in autos, a sunset clause that would terminate the deal after five years unless all three nations agree to renew the pact and reworking the dispute settlement system between the nations. 

Moving forward with those and several other U.S. proposals "will lead to a chaotic breakdown" and possible collapse of the talks as the three nations head for their fourth round of discussions from Oct. 11-15 in Washington, Murphy said. 

That would in turn lead to "the loss of hundreds of thousands of American jobs. It would be an economic and political debacle," Murphy said.

But the Chamber's response drew ire from a labor union and a Democratic lawmaker. 

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the U.S. Chamber's "negative reaction to even discussing creative trade solutions reveals a lot about how much corporate CEOs benefit under the NAFTA status quo."

"We've been saying for years that business trade benefits should come in tandem with rising wages, safer jobs and better benefits for workers rather than at the expense of those things," Trumka said. 

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) said "we are a long way from a good deal for workers in the current state of NAFTA negotiations, but let's call it like it is, the Chamber was never interested in a North American trade deal that puts workers and people above corporate interests."

Still, the U.S. Chamber is making an effort to keep their list of objectionable proposals from moving forward in the talks with Mexico and Canada, Murphy said.

The Chamber has been vocally supportive of the idea to update NAFTA and has created working groups with businesses and trade interests in Canada and Mexico to smooth the process of modernizing the agreement. 

"So, we're urging the administration to recalibrate its approach and stop and listen to the business community, the agriculture community, the people who actually engage in trade and return to principle of 'do no harm' because these proposals, if adopted, will do harm," he said.