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Announcing big trade “win”…but nobody wants to talk about anything except Brett Kavanaugh. (Trump’s top trade negotiator, Robert Lighthizer is over his right shoulder).

Trump Probably Didn’t Intend His Biggest Trade Announcement Yet To Be So Under The Radar

Meet The “USMCA”. Very Similar To The Old NAFTA. But That’s OK. And Still A Huge Accomplishment For Trump

Timing wasn’t great on the announcement of the giant trade deal: in a rare bit of bad luck for the President, when he struck a deal with Mexico by itself at the beginning of last month, he started the clock on a 30-day deadline for Canada to get back in before it went to Congress. And although it probably could’ve been finessed a little, that deadline just happened to land in the heat of the Brett Kavanaugh fight.

So when Trump rolled out into the Rose Garden with his usual coterie of aides and trade negotiators to celebrate his great triumph, most of the reporters in attendance only wanted to ask him about the Supreme Court nominee. Which we think is a little sad. On a day when very little concrete actually happened regarding Kavanaugh, we did a very unscientific survey of several news feeds and found 27 Kavanaugh stories for every 1 about the trade pact. A highly-significant deal that at the very least averted something really nasty from happening with some of our closest allies and biggest trading partners.

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Last night in Tennessee. Just prior to touting (and lying about the size of) trade deal

Still, Trump will have plenty of time to make hay before the midterms about what he called “the largest trade deal the United States has ever negotiated” at a rally last night in Tennessee. Which of course isn’t true because the Obama-era Trans Pacific Partnership was a trade deal that included the U.S., Canada and Mexico and 9 other countries… (Trump killed that deal and said it was horrible.)

And many stories we came across today were eager to point out that a lot of the concessions Canada ended up making were similar to what it had agreed to in that earlier, broader deal. Including opening its market to more dairy products, which if you listened to Trump at rallies recently, seemed like the only issue with Canada: the “270% on dairy”.

But why not borrow heavily from an agreement everybody already has agreed to once before if you can? It’s not like you’re bringing it back wholesale. (Although it does seem to explain some odd things in the agreement given the Trump administration’s overall priorities, like getting Mexico to agree to better protection for sea turtles.)

The Washington Post has a really good story about the meat of what’s in it, and what it’ll mean to U.S. businesses, workers, farmers and consumers. Here’s the entire text of the deal if you really want to wonk out. Canada’s Maclean’s has an excellent blow-by-blow of the ups and downs of the negotiations, which almost reads like a psychological thriller.

We’ll just leave you with a few observations:

  • Trump’s approach to trade is at least somewhat validated by the success of this deal. (Although we’re not sure another President might’ve had just as much success by more gently suggesting it was high time NAFTA was refreshed and updated. But they didn’t, so…) At the same time, some media reports, including this one in Bloomberg concern us a little, because they suggest they’ve figured Trump out, and we can now take any trade threat Trump makes with a grain of salt, or at least as a short-term gambit vs. a committed siege. We’re not so sure it’ll play out that way with China. And Trump’s irritation with Europe — especially German cars which he seems hung up on — hasn’t really been dealt with at all, it’s just been tabled. And South Korea’s new trade pact happened relatively easily because in large part peace negotiations with North Korea are far more important right now than anything else. So South Korean leaders were willing to make some pretty big concessions they might not have otherwise, just to clear the decks and make sure Trump remains focused and on their side.
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With Canada’s PM Justin Trudeau earlier this year at the G7 meeting in Canada

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Peabody award winning journalist. Streaming media pioneer. Played @ CBGB back in the day. Editor-In-Chief "The Chaos Report" www.thechaosreport.com

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