White House Reaches Out to Labor Unions on Trade Policy

February 23, 2018

President Donald Trump sought input Wednesday from the largest labor unions in the U.S. on trade policy, including the talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

[Eric Morath | February 23, 2018 | WSJ]

Mr. Trump met at the White House with Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO labor federation, and the presidents of the Teamsters, the United Auto Workers, the United Steelworkers, the Communications Workers of America and the International Association of Machinists.

The union leaders described the meeting as “very productive,” in a joint statement.

“Labor is united in its view that NAFTA is a disaster for working people and must be fixed,” the statement said. “Real solutions for any new trade deal must dramatically improve workers’ rights and raise wages and living standards in all three countries.”

Mr. Trump has said he would walk away from trade deals, including Nafta, that didn’t benefit American workers.

Labor unions traditionally support Democratic politicians, and Mr. Trumka has leveled sharp criticism at the Republican president in the past year. But the White House has sought to win labor-union support on other priorities, including a legislative package on infrastructure.

Seeking union input on trade deals might help the administration gain support from Democrats in Congress on trade issues.

Mr. Trump asked the union leaders to join him in calling on Congress to fix “bad trade deals that have shipped American jobs overseas,” the White House said in a statement.

Many labor unions have decried Nafta as a job killer since it went into effect in 1994. They have found some common ground with Trump administration proposals, including a requirement that products sold in the U.S. under the agreement have minimum levels of U.S.-produced content. Many business groups, by contrast, have criticized Trump administration proposals for Nafta changes as harmful to the U.S. economy.

The next round of Nafta talks between the U.S., Canada and Mexico is set to begin later this month in Mexcio City.

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