Idaho State Journal | 7 October 2018
NAFTA by any other name is still NAFTA
By Mike Murphy
“What’s in a name?” Juliet ponders in Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. Well, apparently quite a lot. Otherwise, why would businesses pay big bucks hiring firms to create catchy, clever titles?
And why would celebrities change their names, in some cases multiple times? Like rapper Kanye, aka Yeezy, aka Pablo, did when he said he now wants to be called ‘Ye’.
That’s what Kanye, best known as Kim Kardashian’s husband, announced last week, or at least that’s what folks think he said as they attempted to translate his tweet: “the being formally [sic] known as Kanye West..I am YE.”
Ye, Kan, or Kanye, it does not matter to me. I will simply continue to refer to him as Kim’s husband.
The other name change in the news last week involved the iconic restaurant chain Dunkin’ Donuts. The chain is now in the process of changing its name to simply Dunkin’.
One reason given for the switch is that customers mainly go there to purchase coffee, not donuts. Okay, but if the place is going to be called Dunkin’ and people are not dunkin’ donuts, then what exactly are they dunkin’, french fries? I just find the switch to Dunkin’ way more confusing than the switch to Ye.
No doubt in some cases a lot of thought goes into branding of products and sometimes no thought goes into celebrity name changes. But either way, changing a name does not change the essence of that person or thing.
I mean, as Juliet says ‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.’ If Kanye changed his name to Shakespeare he would still write stuff like ‘the being formally,’ right?
The same can be said when it comes to branding government legislation. Let’s take NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, which President Trump once declared “is perhaps the greatest disaster trade deal in the history of the world” as an example.
Trump has repeatedly stated that NAFTA was the creation of that dastardly duo Bill and Hillary Clinton. In addition, he accuses Democrats of placing the blame for NAFTA on poor Ronald Reagan who, according to Trump, had nothing to do with it.
Of course the bulk of Trump’s supporters believe his fantasized version of history because most of them never bother to check the facts. You’d think they would know better by now.
If they did, they would discover that the original architect for such a trade agreement was none other than President Reagan. They would also learn that President George H.W. Bush negotiated and initialed the first version of NAFTA. And after Republicans pushed it through Congress, poor Bill Clinton signed it.
Along with NAFTA, another trade agreement bugaboo according to Trump is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Trump has called the TPP “a horrible deal” and “a continuing rape of our country.” So by his executive order the U.S. withdrew from it.
That brings us to the announcement last week of Trump’s “incredible new U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement called USMCA,” to use the president’s own words. The USMCA will replace NAFTA.
In his usual hyperbolic style, Trump called the USMCA a “brand new deal” and “the most important trade deal we’ve ever made, by far.”
Is USMCA “brand new”? Or is it simply Reagan/Bush/Clinton’s NAFTA with a heavy dose of President Obama’s TPP thrown in the mix, just a rose by another name? Let’s see what the general consensus is by some people who have actually studied the deal.
Jen Kirby of Vox points out that “the majority of the ‘new’ items in the USMCA were negotiated over a period of years by the Obama administration as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”
Furthermore, Kirby states that “Many of the more forward-looking agreements, such as digital trade protections, were borrowed from the TPP — basically a retread of negotiations already completed.”
Even the section that includes sanctions for any country which violates the labor agreement, “a complex, multi-step process modeled after similar protections in the TPP,” was hijacked from Obama.
The ‘new’ USMCA agreement with Canada to open up its dairy market to U.S. farmers has been spotlighted as a big improvement over NAFTA. Yet, again, nearly the exact same deal was negotiated in the TPP by Obama. Other provisions in USMCA are also mostly unchanged from Obama’s TPP.
Essentially, it looks like the president stole Obama’s ideas from the TPP, the trade agreement Trump accused of raping our country, grafted them onto the existing NAFTA, the worst trade deal in the history of the world, and, “Voila!” created a ‘brand new’ trade agreement.
Granted, the USMCA will benefit the auto industry although it’s not clear why it needs any help. It might help auto workers in Mexico although the ability to verify that will be difficult if not impossible. In addition, some dairy farmers might benefit.
But, as one news source concluded, probably the biggest change to the deal involves the name: “Trump insisted the three countries use the name United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, replacing NAFTA.”
By taking body parts from the TPP and NAFTA, trade deals which he vowed to kill, President Trump has created, not so much a rose by another name, but a veritable Frankenstein of trade deals.