President Trump has another treaty to dismantle
President Donald J. Trump does not hesitate to dismantle the status quo when Americans' best interests are not put first. He campaigned on a platform to "Drain the Swamp" and one aspect of that mantra is to step away from the bad deals of past presidents. The president has changed course on a number of issues, with the most prominent being his tax cuts and a promise to draw down troops in America's longest war — Afghanistan.
When President Trump replaced the outdated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the modernized United States–Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), he ensured that Americans receive a fair deal. The original NAFTA deal was unbalanced and led to the loss of American jobs and lower wages for American workers. T hese two problems were cured with a new deal that garnered the support of Congress.
There is another agreement with Canada that is fundamentally unfair to Americans that we must stop hesitating to renegotiate: the Columbia River Treaty. This deal made sense at the time but has outlived its usefulness. The treaty suffers the same core problem of NAFTA — it's unbalanced toward Canada, and American consumers of energy suffer as a result.
According to the Department of State, the Columbia River's drainage basin is roughly the size of Texas. It includes parts of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, and British Columbia. The treaty deals with a hydroelectric plant that benefits millions on both sides of the border by managing flood risk, supporting irrigation, municipal water use, industrial use, navigation, and recreation.
In 1961, when the treaty was adopted, Canada agreed to build three dams to regulate water flows to reduce flooding in the Pacific Northwest and increase the amount of usable electricity generated in the United States. In return, the United States agreed to pay Canada and supply the country with electric power every year. The agreement costs the United States between $150 and $350 million (USD) yearly, depending on the price of electricity. By 2002, the money given by the United States to Canada each year fully paid for the construction of the dams.
Twenty twenty-four will be an essential year for the Columbia River Treaty. Provisions in the treaty that obligate Canada to reduce flood risks in the United States will expire. Under the terms, the United States must give ten years' notice before terminating yearly payments to Canada. Because of this condition, if the Department of State chose to renegotiate the treaty this year, the United States would still be obligated to pay millions to Canada each year until 2030. Each year we delay in renegotiating the deal costs Northwest ratepayers millions of dollars a year.
The Department of State has been slow-walking a renegotiation for years, and Americans in the Northwest want action. The longer the United States waits to act, the higher the likelihood that future negotiations will be tilted left to favor environmental concerns as opposed to economic concerns.
President Trump made history when he dismantled NAFTA. He should continue dismantling bad deals by terminating the unfair Columbia River Treaty. American consumers should not be on the hook to subsidize Canadian energy consumption and to pay for a dam that was paid off years ago.
Abandoning this treaty would do much for the president's prospects in the western United States, because they feel as if they have been ignored and abandoned by faraway Washington, D.C. If the president uses his rights under the treaty to step away, this will set the stage for a better deal in the future that puts America first.
Stephanie Farmer is a former staffer for the Rand Paul 2016 presidential campaign.