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Other View: Trump's threat to ditch NAFTA: never mind

Jennifer Rubin

Forget about deporting every illegal immigrant. Don’t bother nagging Mexico to pay for a wall that we don’t need anyway. On second thought, let’s keep the “One China” policy. President Donald Trump’s best ideas invariably involve abandoning his extreme, unworkable and dangerous ones. The latest example concerns a reversal on his threats to pull out of or significantly redo the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he falsely claimed was responsible for losing “millions” of U.S. jobs.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

“The blueprint for a new Nafta shows the White House trying to navigate the shoals of striking a deal with its closest trading partners that can pass in U.S. Congress. It contains nods to Mr. Trump’s base of voters fearful and angry over lost U.S. manufacturing jobs—including the broad objective for reducing the U.S. trade deficit with Nafta countries and an effort to retain rules that favor U.S. firms in government procurement.

“The plan also backs an unspecified mechanism to prevent countries from manipulating their currencies for trade advantage, an issue of increasing concern among lawmakers and some economists, though one less central to U.S. trade ties with Mexico and Canada. It also includes provisions meant to challenge Mexico on labor and environmental issues.”

In other words, it’s a nothing-burger. At least that was the Canadian press reaction: “The NAFTA’s new objectives under the Trump administration—offered in an 18-page summary released Monday by the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office—are surprisingly tame, according to international trade and customs experts.” The report added, “They see as downright sensible the U.S. proposals calling for regulatory co-operation, the addition of a chapter to address the digital economy, raising the duty-free spending limit for Canadians, and even the scrapping of a dispute resolution mechanism.” One trade guru is quoted as saying it is “nothing close to tearing up the NAFTA” and “doesn’t throw a lot of red meat for the protectionist crowd.” Another noted, “Notwithstanding some protectionist objectives and measures announced in the document, it’s actually something that Canada and Mexico can work with.”

Reaction from Mexico was measured as well, as reported in Fortune:

“Mexico’s economy ministry said in a statement it would work ‘to achieve a constructive negotiation process that will allow trade and investment flows to increase and consolidates cooperation and economic integration to strengthen North American competitiveness.’

“Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior Mexican government official said the list of priorities was “not as bad as I was expecting” and welcomed that the United States was not pushing to impose punitive tariffs, as Trump has threatened.”

The Wall Street Journal sees things the same way. “The quick Kremlinology says it’s the globalists, led by Gary Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. president running the White House National Economic Council,” it reported. “That said, the battle isn’t over. Many of the provisions remain vague. And Mr. Trump has reserved the right to pull out altogether-the goal of his nationalist advisers-if he’s not pleased with the final result.”

If hypocrisy is the compliment vice pays to virtue, then a Trumpkin trade policy is a nod to the benefits of free trade and the danger of trade wars. As frustrating as it might be to see Trump win office by touting nonsensical trade policy, it will be a relief if it turns out that he never meant what he said—or more likely, has no idea how trade policy should work.

Reader Comment: Thanks for saving Craters of the Moon

The Trump administration is currently reviewing the status of 27 of our country’s national monuments, including Idaho’s Craters of the Moon. While Idahoans understand the motivation and rationale for this review, we did not understand why Craters was on the list.

Continued support for Craters of the Moon and for protecting its designation and keeping its boundaries unchanged have been a process that included bi-partisan support at the city, county, state and even federal level. In this day in age, it is rare to see government working and their involvement being a direct reflection of the will of the people they serve, but in this case, we saw it.

As you know, my role at as a County Commissioner has been focused on economic opportunity and development. The biggest economic asset in our county and perhaps in all of eastern Idaho, is Craters of the Moon. Tourism is essential to economies such as Arco. A study by the National Park Service found that more than 240,000 visitors visit the site each year and contribute a combined $8.4 million into nearby communities. That money supports more than 130 local jobs.

Craters of the Moon is a significant resource for rural Idaho. I knew Gov. Otter and Sen. Crapo would agree that past efforts have yielded a productive and successful land management plan for public land. What I didn’t know is how hard they would work to support and protect Craters and the surrounding communities. I was pleasantly surprised.

As the debate continued I saw them work with Secretary Zinke and demonstrate their ability to serve Idaho. The flaws and unintended consequences of changing Crater’s distinction that could have resulted in Idaho’s rural communities suffering were alleviated with the recent decision by Sec Zinke to remove Craters from the list of moments in question.

I hope you can join me in thanking Gov. Otter, Sen. Crapo and Secretary Zinke for keeping Craters of the Moon intact for the sake of Idaho’s families, economy, jobs and our future.

Brugger: Times are changing in Idaho workplaces

Lamb Weston recently had a vote on whether to have a union and the vote was no. I have already stated my thoughts on why unions can be helpful. I will leave any questions about management or union misconduct to the law. However, I picked up on two items about local working situations that I want to comment on.

The first item was about a man who is filed an age-discrimination suit against Chobani. The Times-News reports “Jerry Ash says his supervisors, who were younger, discriminated against him by denying him training they let younger employees take, denied him weekends off even though younger employees got them, ‘arbitrarily questioned the productivity and breaks of Mr. Ash’s work crews’ and turned him down for a managerial position that instead went to ‘a younger, less experienced employee.’”

There is often a clash between generations in a workplace. The boomer generation certainly noticed this when we entered, but now even the rules of the game are changing. I do not want to comment on the merits of Mr. Ash’s claim. I do want to point out that Chobani replied that he was given notice that his performance was substandard and put on a performance improvement plan which he did not meet.

As an employee relations specialist at the Air Force Academy, I dealt with job descriptions and performance improvement plans daily. The use of both documents has been routine for most employers since the mid-’70s in answer to many challenges to the “they really otta wantta do it” method of supervision. A performance improvement plan is used when management believes that the employee has misinterpreted either the job or the way it is expected to be done. Unfortunately, for the employee, it means: Do the job this way, or you will be fired.

For older employees, this may mean changing behavior that was acceptable in the past. For younger employees, it may go against the freedom of action they expect to have in the workplace. Change is required, and it can be difficult. Spencer Johnson wrote a short book called “Who Stole My Cheese” in which he addresses the effect of change on individuals. One reason why I recommend unions to employers is that a good union steward can often explain these facts to employees and avert problems. Of course, unions may also point out where management can change work rules and not hinder productivity.

The other item was a comment to the effect that Lamb Weston is not honoring a seniority policy. I am not surprised. Although many unions have sought to mandate promotions based on seniority in the past, it is not practical now. It was thought that extensive experience in the job below made one ready to take on more responsibility. That lead to a management problem outlined in the 1969 book “The Peter Principle.” Laurence Peter’s book stated “that the selection of a candidate for a position is based on the candidate’s performance in their current role, rather than on abilities relevant to the intended role. Thus, employees only stop being promoted once they can no longer perform effectively, and managers rise to the level of their incompetence.”

To reverse this principle, management began to develop both job descriptions and a list of the skills needed for all jobs. Not all long-term employees possess the skills needed for a promotion, including one to supervisor. Many companies have designated lead positions to recognize individuals who have superior skills in a position and who can pass those skills on to newer employees but do not have supervisory skills. Unions can negotiate the ways in which an employer can prepare employees for more responsibility, and they can educate their members on the skills they must develop to advance.

I still believe in responsibly run unions working in conjunction with responsibly run companies. Not reaching that ideal is another subject. The world of work is evolving, and the changes produced in the process must be recognized. That’s progress and that is also possible.