Who’s Going to Capitalize on the North Dakota/NAFTA Talking Point?

In November of 2017, two studies were made public regarding the effect of NAFTA (The North American Free Trade Agreement) were it to be repealed. One study was done by BMO Capital Markets and the other by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The third most vulnerable state were NAFTA to be repealed would be North Dakota. The two most vulnerable states are Michigan and Wisconsin. The other states which would be most vulnerable are Texas, Kentucky, and Arizona. Exports from Arizona consist of 1.6 % of that state’s economy. 236,000 Arizona jobs are dependent on NAFTA.

There is no shortage of irony in that North Dakota, Arizona, Texas, Kentucky, Michigan, and Wisconsin were all states that Trump carried in 2016. It was no secret that a significant part of the Trump campaign was based upon rhetoric of how bad NAFTA is for the American economy.

It would be unfair to trash the voters of North Dakota, Arizona, Texas, Kentucky, Michigan and Wisconsin for believing Trump. In retrospect, the primary responsibility for misinformation about NAFTA arguably belongs to the Clinton campaign. Why did they not counter myth with fact?

North Dakota exports large quantities of farm commodities such as corn and soybeans to Mexico. North Dakota borders Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Without international trade, how could North Dakota’s farm economy prosper? Whether we like it or not, the reliance of North Dakota on the global economy is a fact of life. That is also the case for 31 of the other 50 states according to the BMO Capital Markets and U.S. Chamber of Commerce studies.

Whoever runs the Democratic 2018 Congressional campaigns and 2020 Democratic Presidential campaign would be well advised to learn from the miscalculations of the 2016 Presidential race. A certain percentage of the voting public will possibly continue to be in denial of the economic realities of NAFTA. That said, most voters will be able to handle the truth. Obviously, neither BMO Capital Markets nor the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are liberal think tanks. If Canada and Mexico don’t trade with us, it would not be surprising if they were to find better deals with China and South American countries. 236,000 workers in Arizona and corn and soybean farmers in North Dakota would not appreciate that. Insulting those with whom we negotiate doesn’t work very well in the private sector. Isn’t it funny how people like to be respected rather than insulted when we do business with them? Why would it be different with governments?

If the Democratic party fails to point this out to red state America again, they will deserve to lose again. To quote James Carville, “It’s about the economy, Stupid.”

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Jim Maxson

Mr. Maxson is a retired Minot attorney, former ND State Senator representing Minot's 3rd District from 1986-1994, and former ND Democratic National Committeeman from 2000-2008. He speaks two languages, English and Metaphor, and is cursed by a long memory.

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