The Corner

Trade

The USMCA Goes into Effect Today

President Donald Trump, Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto and Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attend the USMCA signing ceremony before the G20 leaders summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina November 30, 2018. (Andres Stapff/REUTERS/)

That’s the U.S.–Mexico–Canada trade agreement that replaced NAFTA. The Republican National Committee and others are using the occasion of the deal’s going into effect to back up the president’s conceit that NAFTA was a disaster and the USMCA is a great triumph.

The USMCA is actually mostly identical to NAFTA, which is fine since NAFTA was a good agreement. The way the party’s communications hands are spinning otherwise is by insinuating that every lost manufacturing job in the U.S. since NAFTA was adopted must be its fault. “Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics reveals that the U.S. has lost 4.5 million manufacturing jobs since NAFTA took effect.” Note that the BLS isn’t saying what the RNC is implying, the NAFTA caused these manufacturing-job losses, or any net losses in employment at all.

The RNC also cites the International Trade Commission’s rosy projections of the USMCA’s economic effects, while leaving out that the projection is based on the removal of Trump-created uncertainty about trade among the three countries.

In National Review, I reviewed the changes from NAFTA to USMCA and concluded that on balance they made the agreement slightly worse. I noted, for example, that the International Monetary Fund believes the new agreement will reduce the production of cars and car parts in all three member countries. The good news is that the rhetoric about the “disaster” of NAFTA has not been matched by dramatic action.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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