A Flat-Out Good Deal For South Dakota
We should hope that our Trump-supporting congressional reps, Republicans all, will make sure that the administration heeds the "realism" inherent to NAFTA as it applies to the benefits it created for South Dakota. Round One of the renegotiating sessions concluded last Sunday, with Round Two scheduled for the first week of September. Several more sessions are planned, targeting the end of the year for a conclusion to the process. The American approach has so far been consistent with President Trump's abhorrence of the deal, with the U.S. lead negotiator Robert Lighthizer announcing at the end of last Sunday's talks that "for countless Americans this agreement has failed."
Unfortunately for us South Dakotans, though, Lighthizer's politically popular sentiment is a potential deal-killer, even as his claim doesn't hold water. That's the conclusion of a detailed study in, among others, U.S. News and World Report, published last February, which notes that job losses in manufacturing are widespread throughout the developed world, mainly the result of automation, not trade deals. Politifact.com last year examined all this rhetoric and concluded that "NAFTA produced neither significant job losses nor job gains." Marketplace.org had similar findings, saying that "NAFTA's effect on the net number of jobs was minimal." The Trump administration's continued insistence on the opposite is a political "principle" that needs to be displaced by economic "realism."
South Dakota's gains via NAFTA and other trade agreements are an essential component of that "realism" and need to be understood by this Trump-supporting state. Our U.S. Senator John Thune said as much to KSOO radio in Sioux Falls last month, when he argued that NAFTA has been largely positive for South Dakota. Last June, Thune told a Senate committee hearing that "it's frankly quite difficult to overstate NAFTA's importance to our agricultural sector." I can only add that it's frankly quite difficult to overstate the importance of Thune's penetration of Trump's poorly developed and politically-motivated "principle" with some solid, South Dakota-specific "realism."
That "realism" is only amplified by the words of farmers and their organizations in support of NAFTA. Said the National Corn Growers last May, "since NAFTA was implemented, U.S. ag exports to Canada and Mexico have tripled and quintupled, respectively . . . we want to ensure any updates to NAFTA maintain or increase opportunities for American farmers and ranchers." Trump's bogus, politically-motivated and unsupportable contempt for NAFTA may strike some as a savvy negotiating position, but its emptiness of factual content will render it impotent. We need to lighten up and cooperate, not confront.