Trump turbulence lags momentum for North American trade deal

WASHINGTON — The momentum that supporters have tried to build for a new North American trade deal has run into some Trump turbulence.

The Trump administration had taken steps in recent weeks to work with Democratic and Republican lawmakers to address concerns about the proposed United States-Mexico-Canada agreement.

Then President Donald Trump made his threat this past week of a 5% tariff on Mexican imports unless America’s southern neighbour cracked down on Central American migrants trying to cross the U.S. border.

His recent decision to remove U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and Mexico had appeased mostly Republicans who were using their trade vote as leverage to do away with those penalties.

The administration also had committed to meeting with a group of House Democrats to allay their concerns. That gesture created good will, and as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., described it, put Democrats “on a path to yes.”

Now it’s unclear where that path may lead.

Influential business groups fear that Trump’s threat against Mexico could derail the proposed trade agreement.

“The last thing we want to do is put that landmark deal — and the 2 million manufacturing jobs that depend on North American trade — in jeopardy,” said Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said it was considering legal action to block the tariffs from going into effect.

Some GOP senators are rankled, too, most notably Charles Grassley of Iowa, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

“This is a misuse of presidential tariff authority and counter to congressional intent,” Grassley said.

Congressional aides from both parties said that it’s too soon to say whether Trump’s proposal will derail the agreement. But it does make it harder for lawmakers to assess how the agreement would improve the economic landscape if the tariffs on Mexico go into place.

Democrats seem mostly concerned with other breaking developments.

Hours before Trump announced his tariff plan, his administration tried to set up the agreement for a possible congressional vote before the August recess. The administration completed the formal steps necessary to start the clock for submitting legislation to Congress.

Pelosi said that was “not a positive step” and “indicates a lack of knowledge on the part of the administration on the policy and process to pass a trade agreement.”

Democrats want to strengthen enforcement of labour and environmental standards in Mexico. They have pushed for Mexico to change labour laws that have encouraged wages as low as $1 or $2 per hour at some plants, giving U.S. companies a strong incentive to move operations south of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Mexico lawmakers have approved a law that requires secret-ballot union votes and proof of workers’ consent for contracts. Democrats in Washington want to ensure follow-through, and Pelosi still hold the final say in determining when, or if, the agreement comes up for a vote.

Pelosi also joined several Republican senators in slamming Trump’s tariff threat, saying it is “not rooted in wise trade policy but has more to do with bad immigration policy on his part.”

“Yet again, the president is sowing chaos over the border instead of delivering solutions for American workers and for American consumers,” Pelosi said.

White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway said the tariffs should not jeopardize passage of the trade pact and that the president simply wants Mexico to do more to stem the flow of migrants.

She said the White House is confident it would pass the Democratic-run House, if Pelosi put it to a vote.

Trump said he had the authority to impose a 5 per cent levy on all goods imported from Mexico and pledged to increase those duties to as high as 25 per cent if Mexico did not dramatically to reduce the number of migrants crossing the border.

Investors have responded negatively, with the Dow Jones industrial average closing Friday down roughly 355 points, or 1.4%.

Still, Conway told reporters that “tariffs are a good way to get a trading partner’s attention, and apparently it did.”

Mexico’s foreign relations secretary, Marcelo Ebrard, announced that he and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would lead talks Wednesday in Washington, a move seen as potentially easing tensions and avoiding retaliatory tariffs.

Both Mexico and Canada are moving ahead with steps toward ratifying the trade agreement.

Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, indicated that it’s up to the U.S. and Mexico to work out their dispute. “This is a bilateral issue,” she said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Hundreds turn up at Coldest Night of Year walk in Red Deer

It wasn’t the coldest night of the year, which probably helped the… Continue reading

Police in Saskatoon shoot two dogs that attacked man, then advanced on officers

SASKATOON — Police in Saskatoon say officers had to open fire at… Continue reading

13-year-old Maskwacis teen missing

Maskwacis RCMP are asking for public assistance to locate 13-year-old Rebecca Soosay.… Continue reading

Red Deer area residents who were quarantined on cruise ship near Japan back in Canada

Central Alberta residents are safe and test negative for coronavirus

Alberta doctors getting ready for court fight against new pay, benefits deal

EDMONTON — The head of the Alberta Medical Association says it’s preparing… Continue reading

Fashion Fridays: The 8 best quality online stores! Shop the ultimate sales

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Your community calendar

Feb. 19 A Liberation of Holland event is being held at the… Continue reading

TSN, Curling Canada agree to eight-year extension on broadcast rights contract

MOOSE JAW, Sask. — Curling Canada and TSN have extended their broadcast… Continue reading

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs meet with Mohawks in Kahnawake, Que.

KAHNAWAKE, Que. — Traditional chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation maintained Saturday… Continue reading

Saskatoon protest springs up, even after Trudeau orders blockades torn down

More protests in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs sprung up on Saturday,… Continue reading

Saskatchewan’s chief coroner warns public after fatal drug overdoses in Regina

REGINA — Two deaths and dozens of drug overdoses in Regina have… Continue reading

A champion, again: Humphries wins 3rd women’s bobsled title

Kaillie Humphries of the U.S. is a bobsled champion again, winning her… Continue reading

Canada’s Kingsbury finishes first in moguls for 62nd World Cup victory

TAZAWAKO, Japan — Canada’s Mikael Kingsbury earned his 62nd World Cup victory… Continue reading

Cruise-ship evacuees arrive for quarantine in Canada as first Wuhan evacuees let go

OTTAWA — A plane carrying 129 Canadians and their families who have… Continue reading

Most Read