Believe It or Not, President Obama and President-Elect Trump Agree on a Few Things

November 17th 2016

Mike Rothschild

President-elect Donald Trump called President Barack Obama "the worst president ever" during the campaign. But the two men had a productive meeting after the election, and there are actually a few things they agree on in the areas of both domestic and foreign policy.

The meeting could have been at best awkward and at worst full of contentious argument, but the president-elect tweeted that things went well.

So where do they agree?


Trump railed during his campaign against the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, calling it "the worst trade deal ever" and vowing either to renegotiate it or simply withdraw from the treaty.

Obama held the same view at one time. He proposed renegotiating NAFTA back in 2008, calling the agreement "devastating" and "a big mistake." Obama spoke of reopening the agreement as late as June 2008 — a stance his Republican opponent, John McCain, hammered him for.

But by April 2009, the Obama administration had moved on, and the pledge to rewrite NAFTA was forgotten.

For his part, Trump has so far stuck to his pledge to reopen NAFTA, claiming he'll do so on his first day in office.

Pay up, NATO.

Trump and Obama both agree on the need for NATO member nations to pay their required share of defense spending. NATO's Article 3 mandates that all members spend at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense, ensuring that every country helps fund the military alliance.

But only five countries had met the target as of this past July; the U.S. has consistently spent the most. Many pivotal NATO countries — including Germany, France, and Spain — are well under their target obligations.

Trump consistently complained about America's outsized spending on the alliance during the campaign. He even went so far as to suggest that he'd defend the Baltic nations from Russian invasion only "If they fulfill their obligations to us" — an action that would violate NATO's Article 5 agreement that an attack on any member is an attack on the alliance.

Obama never publicly hinted that he'd abrogate the treaty itself, though he has pushed for higher spending.

Obama scolded member nations in a speech in Germany in April, saying "every NATO member should be contributing its full share — 2 percent of GDP — toward our common security, something that doesn’t always happen."

This week Obama commended Greece for meeting the target: "Greece has done this even during difficult economic times. If Greece can meet this NATO commitment, all our NATO allies should be able to do so."

Infrastructure repair.

Trump and Obama agree on the need for infrastructure repair.

A key part of Trump's platform was to spend billions (or, more accurately, to foster massive tax breaks to private companies) to fund the repair of crumbling roads, bridges, airports, and power plants. He even cribbed the concept of an "infrastructure bank" from the campaign of his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, after previously deriding it.

Obama's plans for infrastructure repair included a 2011 transit repair bill, which was blocked by Senate Republicans. An even bigger bill in 2015 was also blocked by the Senate.

These are minor areas of agreement, given the gulf in temperament and policy between the two men otherwise. But at least it's a sign that common ground exists.