As workers’ rights have become a focus for the 2020 presidential campaigns, Senator Bernie Sanders has called on President Donald Trump to protect those rights in the deal to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), but whether that can happen and if it will be a boon for agricultural and auto workers in the U.S. remains to be seen.
Sanders was speaking at Macomb Community College in Warren, Mich., at a campaign rally on April 13 when he said “the NAFTA treaty that Trump re-negotiated with Mexico will still allow companies like General Motors to send our jobs to Mexico.”
Sanders issued a challenge to the president: “For once in your life, keep your campaign promises…go back to the drawing board.” He implored the president not to send the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to Congress without ensuring there are “strong and swift” measures to keep jobs from leaving the country.
In October 2018, Trump announced the new agreement after a year of several rounds of talks between the parties to replace the estimated $24.8 trillion NAFTA. The talks were not without their problems as Trump was publicly tweeting statements like: “Trade Wars are good and easy to win.”
CBC News had even reported at the time that the negotiations were tense, to the point of making the Americans “uncomfortable” with the demands they were being asked to put forward by the administration.
Those tense talks may have played a role in leading to an agreement which would only have a small increase—.35%—to U.S. economy and an even smaller one to the labor market, per a report by the independent International Trade Commission.
Though the report said the new USMCA would “have a positive impact” for manufacturing and services industries and there would be some extra production in the auto industry, U.S. production is set to be more expensive and wages are set to drop. The real opportunity for growth in the agreement would lie in removing “uncertainty” in “cross-border e-commerce, services and investments,” according to the Washington Post.
Part of that involves job security and protections for American workers, particularly those in the agriculture and auto sectors, like those in Michigan which Sanders actually won against Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primary.
However, Trump ultimately won Michigan later that year, partly due to the fervor over the president’s repeated comments labeling the free trade agreement as “unfair” to Americans. He later repeatedly called NAFTA the “worst trade deal ever made.”
Sanders’ comments and his previous statements on the matter appear to be more about holding the president accountable on his many campaign trail promises to bring “hundreds of thousands of jobs” to American workers.
Josh Orton, senior…