Former President George W. Bush made his pitch about keeping NAFTA and other trade policies as President-elect Donald Trump vows to tear them up and throw others out.
Since leaving office, the 43th president has gone to great pains to stay clear of adding his voice to political commentary. While speaking to leaders from North America on Tuesday, Bush didn't really go into who won on Election Day, but did touch on the why. He then doubled down on what he doesn't want to happen when it comes to trade and the economy
Bush told reporters he would not grade Trump or other White House successors, like the one soon leaving 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
“I don’t think it’s helpful for the country to have a former president criticize a successor. It’s a hard job to begin with,” he said. “Now look, I understand anger. And some people might have been angry when I was president. But anger shouldn’t drive policy.”
Bush said the anger that put Trump over the top should not steer decisions about how the U.S. engages in a global economy.
“I think that’s part of what was taking place during this recent election. People were sick and tired of the status quo,” he explained. “The job of a president is to recognize that trade encourages growth and that fair trade is important for the workers.”
Bush also defended the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump has openly criticized. Bush said the agreement has created 30 million jobs and has expanded trade closed wage gaps while changing the economic health of Mexico.
“There's a thriving middle class on both sides of the Rio Grande River. It’s in our interest and the nation that that be the case,” Bush said. “When Mexico is strong economically, America benefits. When Canada is strong economically, America benefits. And as America benefits, those who work hard for a living benefit as well.”
And Bush says the three nations working together can compete in a global economy against a resource-rich China. And that win-win-win could play out in global trade through pacts like NAFTA if they have a chance.
“One of the things that’s important to understand is that the United States workers, the Mexican workers, the Canadian workers work together to sell products to the world,” the former president said. “We're at an interesting moment. Do we build on the strengths here or not? And our group here believes we ought to build on the strengths.”
Many argue the U. S. economy is essentially global now with or without trade agreements. Some say it would cause a major recession.