LAREDO, Texas – Supporters of the North American Free Trade Agreement are strategizing on how to react to President-Elect Donald Trump’s strong opposition.
“NAFTA is the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere,” Trump said, during the presidential election campaign.
U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio, spoke at an event titled “Road Ahead for NAFTA” earlier this month. It was organized by the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
“We need to keep talking about how can be strengthen NAFTA and how to improve North-America’s competitiveness,” Hurd told the Rio Grande Guardian, after the event.
According to statistics cited by Hurd, 40 percent of the components in contained in manufactured goods coming to the U.S. from Mexico, originated in the U.S. For products coming to the U.S. from Canada the figure is 25 percent. For products coming to the U.S. from China the figure is four percent.
“A lot has changed it the past 20 years. There were some objectives we wanted to achieve with NAFTA and some we haven’t met. So, we need to be thoughtful about what has worked, and what didn’t work, and how can we improve it,” Hurd said.
Blas Castañeda, a board member of the Texas Border Coalition, expressed how important NAFTA is, and how it would be a tragedy to change it.
“We want to express this to our President-Elect Donald Trump, what a tragedy it would be from Brownsville to El Paso to change it,” Castañeda said. “Many depend on it.”
He added that if NAFTA has worked, no bigger modifications are needed. “We need to focus and work together because security depends on all of us”, Castañeda said.
In mid-November, México’s President Enrique Peña Nieto spoke about free trade during his speech at the XXIV Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leader’s Meeting.
“Globally, the debate on free trade has been a central concern. The 21st Century economy requires our countries to be able to cope with the challenges of a complex international environment characterized by volatility,” Peña Nieto wrote in a statement through México’s official web page.
“This is not the time to look back at the past with nostalgia or to regard the present with fear, it is time to look boldly into the future.”
Hurd said he considered these words by Peña Nieto very important, because they reinforce the idea of improving NAFTA.
He added that the relationships and ties to the US and Canada and Mexico are too deep and too wide to pull out, and that’s why the three countries should talk about how the treaty could be improved.
“The energy economies and the US and Mexico are very different than they were 20 years ago, so, there are some things that we can do when it comes to digital goods and services,” Hurd said.
The idea, then, is to have a NAFTA 2.0, an upgrade, and not a total NAFTA reorganization, Hurd explained.
Peña Nieto added at the event in Peru: “Today we have the economic importance, institutional strength and strategic vision to be part of the countries that are writing the rules of the new commercial architecture and policy that will define the twenty-first century.”
Hurd thinks there are some main areas that can be improved, such as agricultural exports, labor and environmental standards, energy, digital trade in goods and services, and “how do you deal with state entities because small businesses should not be regulated by a potential competitor.”
Hurd concluded the interview by saying there is “100 percent hope” about the future of NAFTA.
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story shows San Antonio business leaders at a “Road Ahead for NAFTA” event organized by the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Photo courtesy of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.