*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*
It is typical, although dishonest, for some politicians to “stretch” the truth or use nuanced rhetoric during a campaign, but Republicans just plain lie pathologically. This is particularly true regarding the last two Republican candidates for the presidency. All the attention at the moment is on entertainer Donald Trump’s non-stop lies, but remember; Willard Romney had his own serious distaste for honesty and a raging penchant for mendacity; but Willard is not running for office.
Of all of Donald Trump’s lies, and they are getting more difficult to keep up with, there is one that he continues parroting with impunity with hardly any challenges. Trump, like tens-of-millions of Americans and tens-of-thousands of businesses, has benefitted greatly from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and yet he pledges to abolish it. As a perceived weapon against Hillary Clinton, Trump continues swearing that NAFTA was conceived, pushed, negotiated, and signed by then-president Bill Clinton; that is simply not true and any American with rudimentary calendar skills knows it’s a lie; including Donald Trump.
The origin of NAFTA dates back to 1990 as a trade pact among the three nations. Three leaders, American President George H. W. Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Mexican President Carlos Salinas were each responsible for spearheading and promoting the agreement in their home countries and each participated in ceremonial signing in their respective capitals on December 17, 1992. Bill Clinton was sworn in as the 42nd President thirty-four days after George H.W. Bush signed the NAFTA trade pact.
The day after George H.W. Bush, not then-Governor of Arkansas Bill Clinton, ceremoniously signed the NAFTA trade agreement, president-elect Clinton reiterated his campaign assertion that there would have to be new job and environmental protections, and safeguards against sudden trade surges, but they could be settled without renegotiating the entire treaty with Mexico and Canada before he submitted implementing legislation. In a statement, still Arkansas Governor Clinton said, “I will pursue those other things that I think need to be done in the public interest, then I will prepare implementing legislation and try to pass it in Congress.” Those job protections, like job protections today, never materialized in Congress because Republicans.
Where the Clinton administration did in fact have an impact on NAFTA was negotiating a side agreement on the environment with Canada and Mexico: the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC). That NAFTA amendment led to the creation of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) established in 1994.
In a survey of leading economists, 95% supported the notion that on average, every American citizen has benefited from NAFTA. Job losses, except those from the GOP economic disaster of 2008, came from Republican tax policies that reward corporations and companies that shipped Americans’ jobs overseas for dirt-cheap labor and tax-free profits; policies President Obama and Democrats have attempted to eliminate. Their efforts have been unsuccessful because Republicans blocked the Democrats legislation “insourcing” American jobs from overseas. NAFTA contains no clause or section rewarding or encouraging American companies to relocate their operations overseas to avoid taxation or America’s pathetically low minimum wage.
During the primaries two candidates harped on the idea that NAFTA destroyed the middle class, wiped out jobs, and decimated businesses, particularly small and medium businesses. That is just not true. As noted earlier, GOP tax policy killed jobs with subsidies and tax-freedom from foreign profits. In fact, according to real economists, many small American businesses existences are dependent on exporting their products to Canada or Mexico under NAFTA. As reported by the U.S. Trade Representative, this expansion in trade due to NAFTA supports over 140,000 small and medium-sized businesses in the United States.
It should be glaringly apparent that Donald Trump is persistently lying about former President Bill Clinton concocting the idea for NAFTA and pushing it down Americans’ throats to besmirch Hillary Clinton. She was still the first lady in Arkansas when NAFTA was proposed, pushed, and “ceremoniously signed” by George H.W. Bush a month before Bill Clinton was sworn in as president.
There is no such thing as a perfect trade agreement and only a fool would believe otherwise; it’s why Bill Clinton sought legislation to protect jobs and the environment. Unfortunately, Republicans oppose protecting Americans’ jobs as is their wont but Mr. Clinton did win some environmental protections. Donald Trump will never talk about those aspects of NAFTA because it means he would have to tell the truth; something that is beyond his comprehension and ability as a pathological liar and a Republican.