TPP, NAFTA and Iran: How Trump Could Change the U.S.’s Relationship With the World
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by Countable | 11.23.16
One of the primary themes of President-Elect Donald Trump’s campaign was that the U.S. is being exploited by foreign governments which have been "absolutely abusing us and [taking] advantage of us" during the Obama administration. As president, Trump vowed he would change course by renegotiating trade deals or international agreements that disadvantage the U.S. and calling on America’s allies to step up their contributions to global security.
The Constitution gives the president a lot of discretion over international affairs, so there will plenty of opportunities for Trump to put his own stamp on U.S. foreign policy soon after taking office. We’ve broken down the state of play for several major agreements that the U.S. is party to, to give you an idea of their outlook under the Trump administration.
While Trump can take steps to unilaterally change America’s foreign policy, Congress does have the ability to keep him in check, potentially passing laws to alter his decisions or undo them entirely. You can let your reps in Congress know how you feel about these areas of foreign policy and others by using the take action button.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a trade deal which took effect in 1994 and reduced barriers to trade and investment between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, such as tariffs (taxes on imports). It was frequent target of Trump’s presidential campaign, as he blamed NAFTA for driving American manufacturers to relocate to Mexico.
Trump has called for the U.S. to leave NAFTA unless it can be renegotiated to put American businesses and workers in a more competitive position relative to their neighbors to the north and south. Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has that he would be willing to talk about ways to "modernize" the treaty without renegotiating existing provisions, while Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he is “keeping our options open” over potential trade talks.
Any renegotiation would require new concessions by all sides on diverse aspects of economic policy — ranging from Canadian lumber, Mexico’s environmental regulations, and "Buy American" requirements for federal contracts — so it’s unlikely that they’d be wrapped up quickly.
If negotiations don’t go to his liking, Trump could give six months notice about America’s intent to leave NAFTA. One member of Congress, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), has already introduced a bill that sets a time limit on renegotiations before the U.S. would leave NAFTA. As Vox reported, Trump is planning to make a determination about withdrawal from NAFTA by day 200 of his presidency, so the trade deal’s future should be determined before the end of 2017.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a trade deal between the U.S. and 11 other Pacific nations that has been negotiated by President Obama but still requires ratification by Congress before it takes effect. Its goal is to make it easier and cheaper for those countries to trade by reducing taxes on imports. But Trump worries that it will lead to more foreign-made products in the U.S. and fewer American products sold overseas, meaning fewer jobs in the U.S.
There had been talk of Congress trying to ratify TPP during its lame duck session, but lawmakers quashed that idea and won’t consider it until 2017 at the earliest. Given the results of the election, they may not get to consider it at all, as Trump has said that he will notify the other parties to TPP that he intends to withdraw from the agreement on his first day in office. Trump said his administration will instead negotiate free trade agreements with those nations individually.
Paris Climate Change Agreement
While it only took effect in November, the Paris Agreement deals with limiting greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change beginning with benchmarks starting in 2020 that would be reassessed every five years thereafter. It has been signed by 197 nations, including the U.S., in a controversial fashion. In September 2016, the White House announced that it wouldn’t seek the "advice and consent" of the Senate to ratify the TPP as a treaty, but instead opted to finalize America’s participation through an executive agreement that won’t bind future administrations to the deal.
On the campaign trail, Trump had said that "we’re going to cancel the Paris climate agreement," but since his election he has been less definitive on the subject. In a meeting with journalists from the New York Times, Trump opened the door to keeping it intact, saying of the climate change deal: “I’m looking at it very closely. I have an open mind to it.”
Iran Nuclear Agreement
The Iran nuclear deal, which Trump has repeatedly criticized, is an agreement between the government of Iran and six other nations including the U.S., which allows Iran greater access to its nuclear facilities and curtails its enrichment of material that could be weaponized, in exchange for sanctions relief.
Much like the Paris Agreement, the fact that the Iran nuclear agreement was never ratified as a treaty could give the Trump administration the opportunity to quickly withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Trump has been a vocal critic of the nuclear agreement, calling it a "disaster" and the “worst deal ever negotiated” because he fears that it could lead to a “nuclear holocaust.” Given that sanctions against Iran were lifted by President Obama’s executive orders, Trump would be able to reinstate them with the stroke of a pen once he’s in the White House. While the U.S. wouldn’t face any direct repercussions for abandoning the deal, it would raise questions over Iran’s continued commitment the concessions it made surrounding its nuclear program.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a military alliance that includes the U.S. and 27 other member nations who have agreed to provide for the collective defense of all members. They’re bound together by NATO’s Article 5, which is known as the "Three Musketeers clause" because it states that an attack on one nation is to be considered an attack on all members of the alliance. To ensure that all members are able to contribute, each nation has committed to spend at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense.
Though he never called for the U.S. to leave NATO, Trump called NATO "obsolete" because many members are failing to live up to their commitment and spend the required amount on defense. Only five of the 28 member nations met their goal in 2015. Trump had said that countries must meet those obligations before they can be assured of the U.S. defending them, but later softened his stance in the first presidential debate, saying that he’s “all for NATO.”
Following his election, Trump spoke with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to chat about the "enduring importance" of the alliance and its evolution in the age of terrorism. Stoltenberg said of the spending commitments that “progress has been made on fairer burden-sharing, but there is more to do.”
Congress has introduced a bill to reaffirm America’s commitment to NATO and another that calls on member countries to meet their defense spending obligations, so this will be an aspect of foreign policy to watch after Trump’s inauguration.
— Eric Revell
Photo Credit Gage Skidmore / Creative Commons
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