Why Trump’s talk on NAFTA matters to the rest of Latin America

mcclatchy dcAnything that President Donald Trump says about NAFTA draws extra scrutiny Latin America, whose countries account for half of the United States’ free trade agreements.

So when the president of the United States threatened to terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada, it wasn’t only those countries catching their breath.

“We’re watching what they’re going to do with Mexico,” said Javier Díaz Molina, executive president of Colombia’s National Association for Foreign Commerce, a trade group. “Because whatever dose of medicine they receive, we’ll get the same spoonful.”

Trump backed off the threat after pleas from the U.S. business community and calls from the Mexican and Canadian presidents, but Latin American leaders are hardly resting easy. The Trump administration sent a stiff warning that, like NAFTA, the United States will pull out of any deal it considers unfair unless a better one is renegotiated for the United States.

The United States has 14 free trade agreement with 20 countries. Eleven of those are in Latin America. They include binational agreements with Colombia, Chile, and Peru, and a multilateral deal with much of Central America, known as CAFTA.

NAFTA served as the template for all of those, focusing not just on goods being traded, but intellectual property rights, dispute resolution, worker rights and environmental protection. …

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During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

Unfortunately, in recent years, continued progress in these areas has been threatened, not least by the radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and elsewhere. These governments have instituted retrograde agendas that include the propagation of class warfare, state domination of the economy, assaults on private property, anti-Americanism, support for such international pariahs as Iran, Russia, and even transnational criminal organizations.

We are a group of concerned policy experts that fear the results of these destructive agendas for individual freedom, prosperity, and the well-being of the peoples of the region. Our goal is to inform policymakers and international public opinion of the dangers of these radical populist regimes to inter-American security.