The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) talks started on August 16 with very little of the fire and fury Donald Trump had promised during his campaign. His pledge to abolish the deal has largely been replaced with a plan to modernize it.
Some currents within the Trump administration would certainly like to get rid of NAFTA entirely. But, considering the strength of corporate interests both in and outside the government, this seems unlikely. Big business, NAFTA’s political-intellectual author, remains committed to the agreement and the neoliberal agenda more broadly. The capitalist class simply wields too much power to make abolition possible at this time.
The initial American proposals confirmed that the deal will remain in place, at least for now. Instead of dismantling NAFTA, the Trump administration has imported elements from the rejected Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that seek to deepen and extend investment guarantees, to open up more of the public sector and more public resources to private expropriation, and to extend coverage to new sectors.
Given the balance of forces, we know that these talks will only do further harm to ordinary people in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. This shouldn’t surprise us. After all, NAFTA is just one front in capital’s forty-year war on workers.