As he frequently does, President Donald Trump used a tweet last week to share a decision but this one, which ran counter to a campaign promise, provided some good news for Nebraska.
"I received calls from the President of Mexico and the Prime Minister of Canada asking to renegotiate NAFTA rather than terminate," the president tweeted. "I agreed subject to the fact that if we do not reach a fair deal for all, we will then terminate NAFTA. Relationships are good-deal very possible!"
Rather than shooting from the hip, the president appears to want — at least for now — to avert what he said would be “a pretty big, you know, shock to the system."
For that, Nebraskans — who overwhelmingly supported Trump — should be thankful. Unilaterally withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreement would have had disastrous effects on this state, which is heavily dependent on the farming and ranching industries boosted by the deal since its enactment in 1994.
One in four Nebraska jobs are connected to farming and ranching, according to the state's Department of Agriculture, and business with Canada and Mexico brings billions of dollars into the Cornhusker State.
Shortly after Trump's election, we noted in this space that, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Canada ($2.2 billion of Nebraska imports) and Mexico ($1.3 billion) marked the state’s two largest foreign customers for goods in 2014.
That can't be jeopardized without widespread collateral damage in Nebraska. Canada and Mexico represent two of the state's top agricultural markets; losing access to them would further depress demand and, accordingly, prices for those farm commodities.
The Nebraska Farm Bureau estimated departing NAFTA would cost farmers and ranchers $2.6 billion in lost exports — annually. Nebraska's two U.S. senators have been vocal, unsurprisingly, in advocating for NAFTA, given its importance for the state they represent.
“Scrapping NAFTA would be a disastrously bad idea," Republican Sen. Ben Sasse said last week. "It would hurt American families at the checkout, and it would cripple American producers in the field and the office."
Within his first few days in office, Trump removed the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, widely supported by Nebraska agricultural groups. That executive order ended a trade agreement anticipated to increase Nebraska's agricultural cash receipts by $378 million.
Doing the same to NAFTA would indeed be a nightmare for the state’s leading industry. While ultimate judgment will be withheld until the promised negotiations take place and yield a supposedly better trade agreement, Nebraskans need NAFTA — which must be preserved long into the future, beyond the whims of a single president.
— Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star