27 Feb Can President Obama Withdraw the U.S. from NAFTA?
During the most recent U.S. presidential debate, candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton competed over who was against U.S. participation in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and who was REALLY against NAFTA. Interestingly, both candidates essentially pledged to, if elected, threaten to withdraw from NAFTA in order to force Canada and Mexico to renegotiate.
As a policy matter, this seems like a bad idea since the U.S. probably benefits more from NAFTA than either Mexico or Canada. But I recognize that many folks disagree, especially voters in Ohio. But the interesting legal question is how and whether a future President Obama (assuming he wins, as seems possible or even likely) would withdraw from NAFTA.
Under NAFTA itself, Article 2205 allows withdrawal “six months after it provides written notice of withdrawal to the other Parties.” As a matter of international law then, there is no problem. But as a matter of U.S. domestic law, can a President withdraw on his own authority, or does he have to get Congressional approval?
It seems most likely that this is solely the President’s call, since NAFTA is an executive agreement and not a treaty (and even if it was a treaty, the President probably can withdraw under his own authority). But it does seem odd that the President has such broad unilateral authority on a matter on which Congress has spoken with such excruciating detail. Will critics of executive power protest such unilateral executive action by President Obama?