It appears that U.S. President Donald Trump is ready to kill the newly-negotiated North American Free Trade Agreement by any means necessary. On the very same day that his vice-president was in Canada encouraging our government to move quickly on ratification of the deal, the president himself was announcing actions which would be in clear violation of the treaty were it already in effect.
The president has arbitrarily announced that beginning this week, if he sticks to schedule, a tariff of five per cent will be placed on all goods crossing the border into the United States from Mexico, unless Mexico does more to control the flow of migrants from Central America passing through the country en route to the United States.
And the tariff will be a progressive one, increasing by five per cent each month until it reaches a level of 25 per cent which would happen in October if Trump is not satisfied with the Mexican responses.
The problem with the whole issue is that the president has given no indication as to what he will consider acceptable actions necessary to avoid the tariffs. It is left apparently to his whim on any particular day.
Even officials with the Trump team do not seem to be aware of the minimum progress needed for Mexico to meet the president's expectations. When pressed by members of the media about what the bottom line would be, the answer remains a simple “more”
I'm guessing the only acceptable solution for the president would be the total cessation of migration through the Mexican border. If Mexico doesn't stop all migrants at their southern border, before they can reach the southern border of the United States, they'd best prepare for the imposition of the sanctions.
Imposing sanction when you're trying to get a “free trade” agreement ratified by the country you're sanctioning doesn't sound like a very wise policy decision. But it is very Trumpian.
Frank Likely is a retired Anglican minister who lives in Springhill