WASHINGTON — Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) warned that President Trump could end up hurting Americans in the wallet with a looming trade war with Mexico.
At the Republicans’ congressional retreat in Philadelphia on Thursday, Trump told lawmakers that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) “has been a terrible deal, a total disaster for the United States from its inception, costing us as much as $60 billion a year with Mexico alone in trade deficits.”
“You say, who negotiates these deals? Not to mention, millions of jobs and thousands and thousands of factories and plants closing down all over our country,” Trump said. “I will not allow the taxpayers or the citizens of the United States to pay the costs of this defective transaction, NAFTA, one that should have been renegotiated many years ago except the politicians were too preoccupied to do so.”
McCain said in a statement that “while renegotiations could help to strengthen and modernize NAFTA to benefit American businesses and consumers, any effort to restrict or impose new barriers on our ability to trade with Mexico and Canada could jeopardize the future of this trade agreement and have serious consequences for Arizona and the country.”
“Facts are stubborn things, and the facts clearly show that NAFTA has delivered enormous economic benefits to the citizens of my home state since it went into effect in 1994,” the senator said, adding that “in just two decades, Arizona’s exports to Canada and Mexico have increased by $5.7 billion, or 236 percent.”
He noted that international trade supports more than 20 percent of jobs in his home state, “which pay roughly 18 percent higher salaries.”
“Imports to the state have also lowered the cost of raw materials, allowing Arizona companies to remain competitive and reducing costs for Arizona consumers,” McCain continued. “Free trade stimulates economic growth, creates higher paying jobs, reduces the cost of goods and services, and deepens our relationship with key allies around the world.”
Mexico receives about 30 percent of Arizona exports, and about 40 percent of the state’s imports come from Mexico. McCain’s office noted that 65,000 Mexicans cross into Arizona per day to shop, spending about $7.8 million daily.
“The free flow of trade has been the foundation of U.S. economic policy for decades, and a major factor in our prosperity and greatness,” the senator said. “We should not have to relearn the lessons of history. Retreating from NAFTA and other international trade agreements will harm our ability to compete in today’s global economy, raise costs for consumers, threaten jobs, and undermine our relations with our closest neighbors.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) told CNN today that he believes “when it comes down to it, there’s going to be a renegotiation where both sides probably get a little something out of it and we continue with our very important alliance with Mexico and Canada at the end of the day.”
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told CBS this morning NAFTA “was a bad idea from the beginning for Americans and for the America worker.”
“Donald Trump has promised to put America first and that won’t change. And it certainly won’t change with respect to our relationship with Mexico,” Conway said.
Asked if Mexico would retaliate with a tariff on American goods, costing American jobs, Conway replied, “Possibly — they can do what they want.”