Dingell offers NAFTA replacement ‘blueprint’ for Trump

Keith Laing
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell is partnering with a Democratic colleague on a resolution with a “blueprint for America’s new trade policy” to guide President Donald Trump as he presses for changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The Dearborn Democrat, along with U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said Thursday that the new resolution will outline “principles that must be included in any replacement of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“Michigan is the heart and soul of the American auto industry, and since NAFTA passed, we’ve seen factories shuttered and jobs lost, we’ve seen real income drop for too many workers, and we’ve seen too many families lose hope,” Dingell said in a statement.

“We now have a real opportunity to renegotiate this failed trade agreement in a way that puts working families first. President Trump said this would be one of his top priorities. This resolution provides a road map to level the playing field for the American worker and bring jobs back to this country.”

A central tenant of Trump’s campaign was a promise to voters to improve economic conditions in the nation by renegotiating NAFTA. The agreement was enacted in 1994 to create a free-trade zone between the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

Trump seized upon discontent with NAFTA, which eliminated tariffs on most goods produced in North America, during his successful presidential campaign. The controversial trade deal has been blamed for auto companies moving production of smaller cars to Mexico.

Dingell's resolution calls for "adding strong, enforceable protections against currency manipulation and requiring strong rules of origin for cars and auto parts," which she says is "critical for Michigan’s economy and the domestic auto industry."

Dingell's office said NAFTA rules currently require that cars be only 62.5 percent made in North America to qualifying for the trade deal's duty-free treatment. The resolution from Dingell and DeFazio would require 90 percent of autos to be made in North America in order to receive the exemption.

In a joint news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Trump promised he is going to “tweak” the trade relationship between the U.S. and Canada and Mexico, although he offered no specifics.

“We have a very outstanding trade relationship with Canada,” Trump said after meeting with Trudeau at the White House. “We’ll be tweaking it. We’ll be doing certain things that are going to benefit both of our countries.”

Trump added: “It’s a much less severe situation that what’s taking place on the southern border. On the southern border, for many, many years the transaction was not fair to the United States. It was an extremely unfair transaction.”

Canada is Michigan’s biggest trading partner. The state exported $23.5 billion in goods there in 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Shipments to Canada accounted for nearly 44 percent of Michigan’s exports.

Mexico, meanwhile, was Michigan’s second-largest trading partner with $11.7 billion in exports in 2015. That accounted for about 22 percent of the state’s exports.


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Twitter: @Keith_Laing