It's rather frightening, especially in the "inexorable progress" model of history, to consider how much of what nations do comes down to the personalities of the people in power:
President Donald Trump told Reuters on Thursday that he was "psyched" to terminate the NAFTA trade deal with Canada and Mexico, but changed his mind after their leaders asked for it to be renegotiated instead.
Trump said in an interview with Reuters that he will not hesitate to change course again and pull the plug on the North American Free Trade Agreement if the negotiations become "unserious."
His comments came at the end of a long 24 hours during which Ottawa and Mexico City were whipsawed over the Trump administration's intentions over the 23-year-old trade pact.
"You know I was really ready and psyched to terminate NAFTA," Trump said.
He decided that it would be better to terminate the trade deal after hearing about Wisconsin farmers' struggles with new Canadian dairy rules that were shutting out their milk protein exports.
"You saw that, you wrote about it," Trump said. "And I said I’ve had it. I’ve had it."
But after administration officials said a withdrawal order was being prepared, Trump said he received phone calls from Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking to renegotiate the pact.
"I’m not looking to hurt Canada and I’m not looking to hurt Mexico. They’re two countries I really like," Trump said. "So they asked to renegotiate, and I said yes."
Mexico, Canada and the United States form one of the world's biggest trading blocs, and trade disruptions among them could adversely affect farm, automotive, energy and other sectors in all three countries. NAFTA removed most trade and tariff barriers between the neighbors, but Trump and other critics have blamed it for deep U.S. job cuts.
I know NAFTA has a huge impact on the Texas economy, the state with the longest border with Mexico (and arguably the strongest cultural ties). Simply walking away from NAFTA would be disastrous to Texas alone. And it would have come over the relatively small issue of Wisconsin dairy farmers, the kind of thing a functioning government deals with at the level of "faceless bureaucrats," not at the level of a man who is ready to take his ball and go home. Then again, this is coming from the man who said:
"I loved my previous life. I had so many things going," Trump told Reuters in an interview. "This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier."
One can only wonder what the hell he thought he would be doing.