It's in America's National Interest to Stay in NAFTA

Flags are pictured during the fifth round of NAFTA talks involving the United States, Mexico and Canada, in Mexico City

The United States' neighbors, Mexico and Canada, should be priority partners under President Trump’s new strategy for enhancing U.S. security and prosperity.

Returning to the security side of the equation, an American decision to pull out of NAFTA is very likely to make it harder for the United States and Mexico to continue improving security cooperation in the months ahead. Deepening that work is based on building trust and a shared vision between the two governments. First, a U.S. withdrawal is likely to further increase critical views of the United States among Mexicans, which has already risen to 65 percent negative in 2017.

Second, Mexico is holding presidential and congressional elections on July 1, 2018. A U.S. decision to withdraw from NAFTA will introduce the American decisions into the campaign in a very negative way, as candidates will need to address the negative repercussions for Mexico’s economy. It will be very difficult for any politician to champion deeper cooperation with the United States, and many will be tempted to be highly critical of the potential economic damage for Mexico from a NAFTA withdrawal.

Finally, it will be much less likely that Mexican law enforcement officials will be willing to pursue deeper cooperation in this climate. Anti-crime and border cooperation would no doubt continue, but most likely with less enthusiasm and less political support.

The bottom line is that U.S. economic and national security interests will be much better served by forging agreement on a modernized NAFTA in early 2018, avoiding the potential economic chaos of a withdrawal and continuing to deepen and make more effective collaboration against transnational criminal organizations. Such a path will be a valuable application of President Trump’s new national security strategy. Let’s hope the January round of NAFTA talks in Montreal can adopt this constructive approach.

Earl Anthony Wayne is a Public Policy Fellow at the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute. He is a former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico and Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs.

Image: Reuters

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