Biden on Trade
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No NAFTA Change Possible? Think Again. 299 Times.

(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.)

Whenever the prospect of renegotiating NAFTA is brought up - whether in the context of the Trade Act now moving through Congress, or in regards to Barack Obama's campaign pledges - the counterargument is that the pact simply can't be renegotiated. The argument seems to be that the U.S.-Canada relationship is so fragile that it can't be touched or both countries will slink back into isolationism like it's 1799.

The reality? Since 1794, the U.S. and Canada have negotiated 299 agreements and treaties. That means our relationship with Canada has formally changed on average about 1.397 times every single year.

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After the category of defense treaties, the trade category is what we've renegotiated most frequently with Canada. Other types of treaties, such as those related to highways or aviation, don't come anywhere close.

Taking just trade agreements alone, we've had at least 44 since 1935, meaning that on average our trade relationship with Canada has changed more than every two years. Since the 1988 U.S.-Canada pact was signed, we've had 28 trade agreements with Canada, including several changes to NAFTA. That's an average of 1.4 changes a year to our trade relationship alone over 20 years. The only difference from fair traders' demands for NAFTA renegotiation is that those changes were mostly in a pro-corporate direction. (Click here to download our spreadsheet of all these agreements, which is a major undercount, since they exclude almost any treaty or agreement no longer in effect.)

In sum, enough with the excuses. The basic NAFTA model - at nearly 15 years old - is long due for an overhaul.

(Thanks to our amazing and now departed interns Rebecca Riddell, Isaac Raisner and Amy Bruno for their help on compiling this list from USTR and State Department sources.)

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hanks to our amazing and now departed interns Rebecca Riddell, Isaac Raisner and Amy Bruno for their help on compiling this list from USTR and State Department sources.)

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