Poll Shows Nations’ Differing Opinions on Legacy of NAFTA

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An Ipsos poll released late last week offers a window into the varying perspectives of the populations of the U.S., Canada and Mexico with respect to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

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Negotiators from the three countries kicked off a third round of renegotiation talks on Saturday in Ottawa. Among other things, the ballooning deficit between the U.S. and Mexico has been a major talking point for the U.S. (The U.S. had a $64.4 billion deficit with Mexico in 2016, and a $41.2 billion deficit through the first seven months of this year, according to Census Bureau data.)

But how do the respective publics feel about the 23-year-old trilateral trade agreement?

According to the Ipsos poll, support for the free trade agreement is high across the board, albeit higher in Mexico and Canada than in the U.S.

However, the poll data show citizens of the United States have a different opinion on how much the free trade deal has actually helped their country.

According to the poll, 39% of Americans think the free trade deal has helped the U.S., compared with 57% of Canadians and 59% of Mexicans.

When it comes to identifying which NAFTA members are believed to have benefited the most, 35% of Americans went with Mexico. Meanwhile, a majority of Mexicans (64%) and just over a third of Canadians (34%) said the U.S. has benefited the most from the deal.

When asked if the deal benefited the three countries equally, 34% of Canadians and 32% of Americans said that was the case, while just 20% of Mexicans agreed that was the case.

When it came to whether or not renegotiation was considered to be a good thing, 48% and 46% of Americans and Mexicans, respectively, said that was the case. Canadians were less sure, however, with just 33% saying renegotiating the trade deal was a good thing.

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The three countries each had varying levels of confidence in their negotiators.

Canadians had the most faith in their negotiating team (59%), compared with 50% of Americans and just 40% of Mexicans.

Setting aside President Trump’s public threats to pull the U.S. out of NAFTA should a negotiated deal favorable to the U.S. prove unreachable, 50% of Americans expressed they would want NAFTA to continue in its current form if talks fail. Meanwhile, 59% of Canadians and 60% of Mexicans indicated they would want the deal to continue in its current form if talks fail.

On the other side of the spectrum, 16% of Americans said they would want the deal dismantled if talks fail, compared with 25% of Mexicans.

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The third round of NAFTA renegotiation talks are scheduled to conclude tomorrow. Whatever happens — a revamped deal, maintenance of the status quo or a wholesale dismantling —  the citizens of each country will certainly have differing opinions on the favorability of the outcome.

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