Governor Andrew Cuomo has been unusually quiet — not saying a word about the ongoing North American Free Trade Agreement talks in Montreal — especially for an elected official seeking a third term later this year.
The Clinton-era trade agreement is deeply unpopular across Upstate New York, where formerly industrial cities like Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Binghamton, and Utica are still reeling from the joblessness that results from offshoring production processes and supply chains.
Activists across the Rust Belt are demanding that the trade agreement is scraped and replaced by bilateral agreements with Canada and the United States, separately. They argue that unfair Canadian trade practices prevent American firms from entering Canadian markets — preventing competitors in every category from banking to consumer goods.
At the same time that Royal Bank of Canada is aggressively and unapologetically entering the American market, American banks — like Buffalo based M&T Bank — are unable to expand into Canada.
In New York City, where Wall Street bankers have profited mightily on NAFTA and similar trade agreements, the issue of foreign trade doesn’t come with the intense toxicity and repulsion that is provoked in voters upstate.
Cuomo’s silence on the issue could become an issue unto itself, especially as activists wonder why a Governor with a brand new taxpayer funded helicopter can’t be bothered to make the short trip to Montreal to assert the interests of New York’s underemployed legacy cities. They presume that Cuomo is steering clear of the issue to avoid taking positions that are less popularly nationally, when his 2020 presidential ambitions come into fuller focus.
Former State Senator Terry Gipson, a Democrat from the Hudson Valley, is waging a primary challenge against Cuomo. Three Republicans from Upstate New York are vying for the gubernatorial nomination: former County Executive Joel Giambra; Senator John DeFrancisco, of Syracuse; and Assemblyman Brian Kolb, of Canandaigua.
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