The Wall Street Journal has the 24-hour blow by blow of how – at what seemed like the last minute – the Trump administration decided not to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Scrapping or dramatically renegotiating the decades-old trade agreement between the US, Canada, and Mexico was one of Trump’s big campaign promises. And, as the WSJ reports, in Trump’s desperation to fulfill promises before his administration’s 100-day mark, he felt like taking dramatic action and exiting the trade deal.
That’s when foreign leaders, members of his own administration, and U.S. executives jumped into action. On heels of reports that Trump would sign an executive order written by the most nationalist elements of his administration – namely Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro – Trump received back to back calls from the Prime Minister of Canada and President of Mexico.
Then came the full court press from home. Agricultural Secretary Sonny Purdue and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross reportedly took out a map and showed Trump which states would be negatively impacted if he left NAFTA.
Then came the flood of calls from C-suites around the country. One big business group head told his members to “have your CEOs call the highest-ranking administration officials they can reach.” The former head of the US Chamber of Commerce called the White House three times.
More and more, it seems Trump and his top advisers seem to be contradicting each other left and right. On Monday, for example, Trump said he may break up big banks. At the same time, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin took credit for bank deregulation.
The NAFTA situation seemed to have a similar quality.
One senior Toronto bank executive said Gary Cohn and Steven Mnuchin -former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executives now serving as chairman of the White House National Economic Council and as Treasury Secretary, respectively-have on a few occasions reached out to senior Canadian business officials in recent weeks to counsel them that despite the internal Trump administration divides over trade policies, they expect no significant Nafta changes.
Obviously that’s not the message Trump has been sending. The question is who wins out in terms of policy, and whether or not the market has the patience for this kind of flip flopping uncertainty.