Who called who? As attention focuses on Congress and President Trump getting a one week extension on funding signed before midnight on Friday, there was a supposedly very close call with NAFTA this week. President Trump had an executive order ready to be signed that would have withdrawn America from the trade agreement. But then he got on the phone with Mexico’s President and Canada’s Prime Minister and they agreed to work things out.

How close did America come to withdrawing from NAFTA? And, would Congress have to vote on any withdrawal from NAFTA by America? Article 2205 of the agreement states:

A Party may withdraw from this Agreement six months after it provides written notice of withdrawal to the other Parties. If a Party withdraws, the Agreement shall remain in force for the other Parties.

That sounds pretty clearcut, as well as being flexible and pragmatic. And it sure seems to give the president the power to withdraw. Writing in Atlantic however, Matt Ford quotes NAFTA wonk and advisor Jon Johnson as saying the use of the word may, means that a country is not bound to withdraw should, for example, President Trump have actually signed that executive order. And goes further to state that since Congress enacted NAFTA, it must have its say over any attempt by America to withdraw from NAFTA.

Sorry Jon Johnson, but that’s quibbling. Had Trump signed the withdrawal order, he would have put America at the doorstep and on the way out. He didn’t sign however, and it seems to be that the leaders of Canada and Mexico suddenly had an urge to dial up President Trump and see how he was doing.

Well maybe not quite. It was leaked and rumored and spread all over town that an executive order was being drafted and that it was a matter of days before it would get signed. And that seemed to work nicely. Senators spoke up against withdrawal. And suddenly Canada and Mexico were calling, and a deal to work on some sort of a deal to reform the trade agreement was reached.

Was this Pence reining in Bannon and Navarro? With Kushner telling his wife to call her boy pal in Ottawa and get him to call her father so that NAFTA would remain in place, maybe with a few changes? Frantic calls and who knows what the president will do next?

Or, was this a case of a White House that is coming together and figuring out who does what and when in order to achieve President Trump’s agenda?

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