Rahm File: Public Thinks NAFTA Traded Jobs for Immigrants

In a private letter to then-President Bill Clinton, Rahm Emanuel complained that Mexico looked to be getting “the better end of the deal” on NAFTA and a $12 billion loan agreement, according to newly released documents from the Clinton Presidential Library.

Emanuel, a White House aide then and now the mayor of Chicago, told Clinton that a October 1995 state visit by Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo hurt Clinton more with American voters than it helped him with investors, at a time when the North American Free Trade Agreement and the loan deal were still new.

“I know that Wall Street was happy with the visit, but for the rest of America it looks like we gave them $12 billion and our jobs and they give us narcotics and immigrants,” Emanuel wrote to Clinton on October 13, 1995. “The lack of progress on narcotics or immigration only show that the Mexicans got the better end of the deal.”

Emanuel had whipped votes on Clinton’s behalf for NAFTA’s ratification by Congress. His effort led some organized labor supporters to back his opponent in a 2002 Democratic congressional primary in Chicago. Emanuel won the primary and spent six years in the House of Representatives before becoming President Barack Obama’s first White House chief of staff in 2009. He was elected mayor in 2011.

In the 1995 memo, Emanuel, who already was developing a reputation in Washington for his brusque manner, unloaded on colleagues that worked on the president’s National Security Council staff.

“I know that I am in the minority and hold a contrary view, but I think the visit from Zedillo was a net loss for you and shows that we do not coordinate your politics with the NSC,” Emanuel wrote. “This trip only reinforces the public’s perception that we are elitist and removed from their concerns on jobs and drugs. I would only hope that in the future their would be better coordination between the NSC and your own politics.”

The memo was part of a batch of roughly 2,000 pages of documents released for the first time today by the Clinton Presidential Library. It is the fifth set in a series of files disclosed this year after having been withheld from public view.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.