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Zaleski: Trump's take on NAFTA will hurt ND

If Donald Trump yanks the U.S. out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, North Dakota, where Trump is irrationally popular, will be among the losers. Every responsible economist and trade analyst has come to the same conclusion. That includes statements from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, major farm organizations, and the National Association of Manufacturers.

How is it that the president, who has no use for losers, would force North Dakota into the loser column? North Dakota! Where he is loved. Don't ask.

Among the largest slices of North Dakota's export pie are farm commodities, ag products, cattle and manufactured goods. All are exported to NAFTA nations, Canada and Mexico, most with zero tariffs. If Trump messes with the agreement, tariffs could return to pre-NAFTA levels, as high 27 percent on beef exports to Mexico, 25 percent on wheat, a tariff on corn (there is none now), and 75 percent on potatoes shipped south.

Gotta wonder what mega-spudster and big-time beneficiary of Uncle Sam's farm handouts, Tom Campbell, has to say to Trump about NAFTA and potatoes. Heard anything like that in Campbell's Trump-lovefest campaign for the U.S. Senate? Don't ask.

Consider corn, a crop that has expanded in acreage in North Dakota during 24 years of NAFTA. The agreement is a factor in the corn-success equation that includes migration north of the corn belt because of early maturing hybrids, and a longer growing season. Prior to NAFTA very little North Dakota corn was sold to Mexico. Scrap NAFTA and farmers lose a market.

Zaleski retired in February after nearly 30 years as The Forum’s editorial page editor. He continues to write a Sunday column. Contact him at jzaleski@forumcomm.com

Consider dry edible beans, which are grown on tens of thousands of acres in Cass County, processed and exported to Mexico tariff free. That thriving sector of the ag economy would take a hit if Trump's bluster is more than hot air.

Consider farm tractors, field implements and other machinery made in North Dakota. The market in Canada is huuuge for the state's economy. Muck it up and good-paying factory jobs, which were created in part by export demand, go away.

NAFTA in North Dakota has opened up export markets, created jobs and stimulated crop diversity. If Trump jettisons the agreement, he'll upend 20 years of economic success. Yet, the Trumpanista cult in North Dakota believes he walks on water. (It'll be polluted water, given his EPA chief Scott Pruitt is trying to reverse decades of clean-water progress.)

If Trump's rhetoric becomes policy, he will hurt people he said he wanted to help: blue-collar workers, small business owners, manufacturers, farmers. During the campaign he said: "I love farmers, I really love farmers ..." He sold it. Farm states bought it. Yet, he's a chronically vain big-city elitist whose idea of a farm is probably an herb garden tended by illegal immigrants at one of his rich-guy resorts.

Where's the critical thinking from Trump cultists? Where are voices of reason from people who should—and probably do—know better? Where's the intellectual honesty? Don't ask.

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