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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 8/7/17

Tough Trade Talk Fades as Trump and Pence Toe the Koch Line

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Donald Trump and Mike Pence - Caricature
Donald Trump and Mike Pence - Caricature
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When he was running for president, Donald Trump had very harsh words for deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the then-pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

He called NAFTA "the worst trade deal in the world" and "a total disaster." He said it had caused "carnage," lumping it in with other "terrible" trade deals like the TPP, which he also called a "disaster."

Consumer advocates spent more than six years trying to stop the TPP. Hillary Clinton turned against it (Bernie Sanders always was), and Trump withdrew America from the pending agreement upon taking office.

But his administration is now resurrecting much of that deal's most troublesome provisions, along with its corporate-friendly drafting process, as it prepares to renegotiate NAFTA.

Toeing the Koch Line

That's a major reversal for the president, and it's undoubtedly making the Koch Brothers very happy. The Kochs spent millions of dollars lobbying for the TPP, and a Koch subsidiary outsourced thousands of jobs to Mexico, according to the U.S. Court of International Trade and the US Department of Labor.

The Kochs were reportedly prepared to mount a "billionaire resistance" to Trump policies they oppose, but so far that hasn't seemed to be necessary. The president's personnel choices quickly led Politico to dub it "Trump's Koch Administration." The brothers met Trump at Mar-a-Lago in April.

Trump has proved to be equally pliant on policy. Since taking office he has rejected a draft executive order on NAFTA, "softened his stance" on trade, and "reversed" his "closely-held position" on China.

Pence on Trade

The Kochs were undoubtedly pleased to see Mike Pence, a longtime Koch ally and beneficiary, tapped as Trump's Vice President. David Koch directly contributed a total of $300,000 to Pence's gubernatorial campaigns, while the Koch-backed Republican Governors Association spent $4.2 million backing Pence in 2012 and 2016.

Even before he and Trump took office, Pence was reportedly given a prominent trade role when he was tapped to negotiate with Carrier Corporation to keep its factory jobs in Indiana. The much-publicized deal that resulted turned out to be largely a sham.

Since taking national office Pence has represented the administration on trade issues in meetings with Japan and Canada. And when he was given a platform to discuss trade at the governors' conference, with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in attendance, Pence dispensed with tough talk on trade and instead promised "a win-win-win for all of our trading partners in North America."

The Koch Republicans

Other Koch-bought politicians were on hand for Pence's pro-NAFTA remarks, including Wisconsin Governor and Koch favorite Scott Walker. None of the Republican comments cited by the Canadian Press expressed concern for the well-being of American workers, and all of them expressed support for continuing NAFTA without significant changes or concessions.

"I don't think you need to blow it up," Walker said of the job-killing deal. "I think it needs to be improved." Likewise, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, who spent a weekend cozying up to the Kochs and their friends at a retreat last year, dismissed talk of stronger protections for American workers. "The idea that (trade renegotiations) won't come out in good measure for both parties is preposterous," Bevin said.

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Host of 'The Breakdown,' Writer, and Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

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