But the major reason to do NAFTA is and always was that it is an important and a big good deal for Mexico. Having a good relationship--i.e., being in a positive-sum gift-exchange relationship--with the country on our southern border is a matter of elementary prudence in international relations. And doing what we can easily and cheaply to increase the chances that the country on our southern border is stable and prosperous is elementary prudence as well.
NAFTA is close to rounding error in terms of its effects on the U.S.--not one of the thirty most important things the U.S. government could do for good or ill for the U.S. economy. It has small net benefits, yes. It had some costs for groups that had flourished under the umbrella of the pre-1993 barriers to imports from Mexico, yes. Those costs should have been better cushioned--and would have been had not Americans voted for Gingrich as House Speaker and Dole as Senate Majority Leader in 1994--yes. But those costs are now sunk, and those firms and sectors have adjusted and moved on. Abrogating NAFTA would impose a new and different set of costs, and would have no net positive benefits as an upside, yes.
But NAFTA is, substantively, not worth committing political capital to attack or to defend if one is required to limit one's view to its direct effects on the U.S. The rational strategy, therefore, if one is forced to look at the direct effects in the U.S. and at the U.S. only is to let the point go and keep your powder dry for more important struggles, rather than wasting energy and stressing political alliances.
That's where Dani's rhetoric takes us.
And that is, I think, very wrong. The indirect and long-run benefits for the U.S. in living in a more peaceful, more stable, and more prosperous world are large and mighty. NAFTA is and was worth doing for the reason that it is and was a stone placed in that still-unfinished arch. But to point that out is to be a rootless cosmopolite--the thing that Dani wants to rule out as a political position. And if one has to argue that abrogating NAFTA is "poor domestic governance" in terms of its direct effects on the U.S. economy--well, that is a very heavy lift indeed..."