Opinion | Where’s That Better Deal, Mr. Trump?

Opinion | Where’s That Better Deal, Mr. Trump?


Then there is Nafta, the North American Free Trade Agreement, which the United States, Mexico and Canada have been unable to agree on amending, after months of negotiations.

As for China, which Mr. Trump promised to browbeat into offering trade concessions, recent negotiations ended with few signs of progress toward avoiding a trade war.

The one agreement on which he forced new negotiations and seems to have scored modest success is the Free Trade Agreement with South Korea. Even so, the president has suggested he might delay finalizing the pact because it gives him a card to play, presumably with Seoul, while negotiating with North Korea over its nuclear program.

Mr. Trump often seems to be consumed with overturning the legacies of his predecessor, but few of the agreements so stoked his disdain as the Iran nuclear deal, Mr. Obama’s signature diplomatic achievement. Signed in 2015 by five major powers as well as the United States and Iran, it committed Iran to significantly curtailing its nuclear program in return for a lifting of sanctions.

International inspectors along with American and Israeli intelligence and security officials have repeatedly judged that Iran is abiding by its obligations. That doesn’t matter to Mr. Trump, allied with the anti-Iran hard-liners in his administration and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.

Ahead of his decision on Tuesday to no longer waive sanctions on foreign countries doing oil and gas business in Iran, cutting the heart out of the deal, Mr. Trump put the onus on France, Germany and Britain to address what he considered “flaws” in the accord. For months the Europeans argued this could be done in a side agreement, while keeping the nuclear deal intact, but the effort ultimately collapsed because of Mr. Trump’s insistence on reopening the accord itself. It’s doubtful that Mr. Trump was ever serious about finding a compromise. The Europeans and Iranians still hope to manage the fallout, but Mr. Trump has no obvious plan B, except ratcheting up the pressure on Iran.

It seems an oddly dissonant and counterproductive message as Mr. Trump has shifted from warmongering to diplomacy on North Korea and prepares to meet its leader, Kim Jong-un, to get him to abandon his nuclear program, with an arsenal of 20 to 60 weapons. Why should the North Koreans now believe the Americans, over the long haul, will honor a deal any president strikes?

While the stakes with Iran are high, with North Korea they are even higher. Will that be another deal too far for Mr. Trump?



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