Square-Off: Should U.S. Trade Agreements Be Renegotiated?

A shakeup in global trade is coming. Will it harm or help U.S. companies?
David KatzMarch 17, 2017

Running on a campaign to “Make America Great Again,” Donald Trump pledged to tear up trade deals that he claimed hurt American companies and cost jobs for American workers.

Since his election as president, his administration has swiftly pursued that agenda, stepping away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and moving toward a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Is turning away from decades of free-trade policy a good thing or a bad thing from the perspective of U.S. corporations and their finance chiefs?

In five articles, the authors contributing to this opinion forum offer a range of answers to that question. There are clear drawbacks to altering the course of U.S. trade policy: the uncertain environment that radical change necessarily brings; the loss of trade advantages for U.S. industries like agriculture, telecommunications, and financial services; and the loss of protections for the nation’s patent holders.

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But the columnists do foresee a range of options that could minimize the damage and bring advantages to companies and workers hurt by globalization. Rather than rip up NAFTA, the president could choose to renegotiate that treaty to the greater benefit of U.S. companies, they say. In certain situations, the one-on-one negotiating style he favors could have advantages over multilateral wrangling, some contend.

By studying a range of possible outcomes, our commentators suggest, CFOs can plan and create models that will help their companies cope, and even thrive, in what bodes to be a time of intense change in global trade.