Opinion » Note

Giving Free Trade a Fair Shake


"Hitting the wall" in a marathon is a real, physiological thing. For most runners, the dreaded phenomenon presents itself as a seemingly unconquerable feeling of exhaustion that comes on in a wave at about mile 20 of the race. Volumes of running science have been written about what "the wall" is and how to power through it. I've never actually run a marathon, but I think I'm experiencing "the wall" and need to come up with some strategies to overcome the deep, existential weariness brought on by this election cycle.

As I write this, on Nov. 1, there are exactly seven days until we can close the book on the 2016 General Election. At least, that's what we might like to think. I have a sneaking suspicion much of the rhetoric and acrimony that has characterized American life over the past year or so isn't going away when we finish casting ballots on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Recognizing the long tail of partisanship is, I suppose, is one way of dealing with political fatigue; and, perhaps as a palliative measure, that's why this week's feature (see Page 9) drills into a topic as apparently settled as the North American Free Trade Agreement.

I have a personal connection to the story of NAFTA—I was 13 years old when the historic trade deal between the United States, Canada and Mexico was signed, and it had an immediate effect on my hometown of Sandpoint, located about 60 miles south of the border. My dad had worked in the lumber mills of North Idaho for most of my childhood, and later went on to sell building supplies. Like a lot of people, ours was one of those families "supported by timber dollars." That got a lot tougher when NAFTA was passed and the market was drowned in below-market priced Canadian wood products. So, when Donald Trump said NAFTA is the "worst deal in U.S. history," part of me kind of agreed.

It was a bizarre feeling to agree with Trump, so I decided to take a closer look at the legacy of NAFTA on the state of Idaho. Of course, as with everything, it ended up being more complicated than I first imagined.