When the negotiation to renew the North American Free Trade Agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico begins August 16 at a Washington Hotel two miles north of the White House, it will probably pass under the radar in the American capital.
That is because there is so much controversy swirling around President Donald Trump and his administration that unless the President himself decides to highlight the start of the talks, the media, politicians and the public will likely be more focussed on the possibility of a nuclear confrontation with North Korea or the investigation of Special Council Robert Mueller.
But while the President may want to herald the start of the NAFTA talks to divert attention from his administration’s other problems, will he ultimately be driven to end them for the same reason?
Will Donald Trump ultimately blow up the NAFTA negotiations in a desperate bid to save his beleaguered Presidency?
Trump campaigned on repealing or replacing NAFTA. He called it “the worst trade deal” ever signed by the United States.
He also campaigned on replacing the health insurance plan know as Obama Care, cutting both personal and business taxes, launching a multi-billion infrastructure program and building a wall along the United States border with Mexico.
So far, no progress on any of these promises.
Instead, the Trump administration is mired in a scandal over whether it colluded with the Russian Government and Vladimir Putin in the election campaign he won to beat Hilary Clinton.
So, desperate for a political “win” to show to his political base, will Trump disrupt and the destroy the NAFTA negotiations?
Never interested in the substances of issues, it wouldn’t take much to convince Trump to do just that.
Remember in April Trump attacked Canadian dairy policies in a speech in Wisconsin. That was the headline in the newspapers and on TV.
The real story went much deeper. I was told that when Trump returned to Washington that evening he told Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross that he wanted to pull the United States out of NAFTA.
The reason; before his speech attacking CANADA a small group of Wisconsin dairy Farmers told him they had been adversely affected by a change in Canadian dairy regulations.
It took the combined efforts of the Prime Minister, the Global Affairs Minister and the Canadian Ambassador in Washington to talk the President out of killing NAFTA.
That was before Trump’s current problems had reached the boiling point.
Now the water is getting really hot for the President. Will the NAFTA negotiations be a victim of all the other problems besetting his troubled Presidency?