We asked Eurasia Group president Ian Bremmer if NAFTA is as terrible as President Trump says it is. Following is a transcript of the video.
IAN BREMMER: You know, Trump has been consistent in coming after all of these deals. You know, “TPP is the worst deal ever, NAFTA is the worst deal ever.” He does speak in hyperbole and I do think that there’s something to the notion that you don’t take Trump literally. You kind of look at the broader trajectory of what he’s saying and the statements behind it, the thoughts behind it. But NAFTA is a deal that a lot of Americans have not benefitted from. I do think we need to recognise that. I’ve benefitted from it. The country as a whole has benefitted from it because of course, we see greater growth. US-based multinational corporations have benefitted from it and all the shareholders have benefitted from it.
But the problem is that you have a lot of Americans, I’d say even a small majority of Americans that say, “great, I can buy goods more cheaply at Walmart because of all this globalization but like, I don’t have a job. My kids aren’t going to do better.
We’ve got all this type-2 diabetes, we got a crazy opioid crisis. Infrastructure is falling apart. Families are falling apart. Who’s focusing on me?” And I think a willingness to say, “wait a second, NAFTA might be fine and good for the country but if you’re not going to actually focus on the people who are suffering in the US, why should I support free trade?” I think that’s a very reasonable thing to say and I think a lot of people voted for Trump because of that.
Now, here’s the problem. Trump’s identified this challenge and he’s speaking to it, but his actual policies aren’t going to help any of these people. Now, I’m not suggesting that Hilary Clinton’s would have. I don’t think that they would have either. The point is, that you have a president that in principal says “America first” but the Americans that voted for him are not going to be placed first by his healthcare policy. They’re not going to placed first by his tax-policy.
I’ll do very well under Trump’s tax policy if any of it comes in place both in terms of my corporation and my individual taxes, I don’t need Trump’s help. The people that need Trump’s help are going to do worse.
He’s taking food stamps away. It seems to be a very ludicrous thing to do if you’re trying to put Americans first. I mean, there are people that are legitimately suffered under NAFTA, under globalization and not because globalization’s a bad thing but simply because the people making all the money didn’t pay attention and the politicians that they bought didn’t pay attention to a lot of constituents in America that didn’t have power, that didn’t have a voice. So they have enough of a voice to finally elect Trump and Trump ignores them again.
And I think that one thing we can say about the United States and France and the UK, all of which had very big votes in the last twelve months, right? In the case of US, they voted for Trump. In the case of Britain, they voted for Brexit. In the case of France, they actually voted for Macron. But in all three places, you had all these people that were very deeply upset that the establishment was not working for them but also, in all three places, they’re going to be ignored. In all three places, the outcomes, no matter who you voted for, it’s the little people that are getting screwed. And so they’re going to get angrier, that’s where we are right now. And anyone that looks at what’s happened in the developed world now and whether it’s NAFTA or any of these trade agreements have to recognise that these are not working for a lot of people and that has to be addressed.