NAFTA Replacement Has a Chance — There’s Bipartisan Support; The Epstein Scandal
Author: Greg Valliere
August 12, 2019
ALL OF THE KEY PLAYERS — The Trump Administration, most Democrats, the Canadian and Mexican governments, business leaders in all three countries — are pushing hard to win Congressional approval of the NAFTA replacement, called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), and it appears they have a chance to succeed.
WE TALKED WITH A TRADE EXPERT on Friday who reported that negotiators are making progress behind-the-scenes. He said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has surprising support from most of the key Congressional players as they negotiate throughout August on labor and environmental provisions that would be added to the new pact.
PELOSI IS THE KEY: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi isn’t anxious to do Donald Trump any favors, but she was instrumental in raising the debt ceiling (in part because she got something in return — vastly more domestic spending). And she would get much in return for U.S. labor unions if there’s a USMCA deal; no one wants to magnify the China debacle with a trade dispute with Canada and Mexico.
BUSINESSES ALSO WANT A DEAL: Already reeling from the uncertainty created by the tariff war with China, U.S. business leaders — especially in the Midwest — are pushing hard for the USMCA. This is a major goal of Vice President Pence, who is quietly leading the lobbying effort for a deal. The Trump Administration and pro-labor Democrats are in virtual lock-step on many trade issues; the new deal, for example, would require that at least 40% of all auto parts must be made by workers earning at least $16 per hour.
TIMING IS CRUCIAL: All of the participants agree that a deal needs to be done by mid-September, before appropriations bills clog the Congressional agenda — and before Canadian politics heat up, with an October election that looks too close to call for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Like most politicians in all three countries, Trudeau wants a deal.
BOTTOM LINE: We’ll stick our neck out and predict a 60% chance that the USMCA deal will win approval. Some Democrats will never agree — they have latched onto a controversial proposal to extend some pharmaceutical patents, they want a tougher enforcement mechanism, and they don’t want to give Trump a signing ceremony on anything.
BUT NEARLY ALL REPUBLICANS and perhaps half of the Democrats want a deal, and they’re getting an earful from struggling businesses in their home districts. So we think this is do-able, perhaps within a month.
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CONSPIRACY THEORIES that involve sex and mysterious deaths are like catnip for the media and the Twitter world, so the Jeffrey Epstein saga will continue to produce lurid speculation. Our take is that gross negligence in the NYC prison was responsible for Epstein’s apparent suicide, but there’s no question — lots of people wanted him dead because dead men tell no tales.
A POX ON BOTH THEIR HOUSES: Just when the fever swamp of U.S. politics couldn’t get any more cringe-inducing, an ugly fight looms between Donald Trump and Bill Clinton over who won the most favors from Epstein. Trump reportedly thinks there’s still a chance Hillary Clinton may run, so he could use this scandal to taint the Clintons forever. Democrats, meanwhile, are focusing on Trump’s dealings with Epstein in Palm Beach.
HOW CAN AMERICANS HAVE FAITH in the country’s leaders when a who’s who of prominent officials are connected to Epstein? What an opening for the Russians, who are certain to exploit this with more disinformation — as Congress still refuses to act on a plan to thwart intervention by Moscow in the 2020 election.
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