SAN JUAN, RGV – Renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement can result in a “win-win” for the United States, Mexico and Canada, says former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico E. Anthony Wayne.

Wayne, now a public policy fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, spoke at a forum titled “Tackling North America’s Workforce Challenges.” It was held at Brookhaven College and hosted by North American Strategy for Competitiveness (NASCO) and Dallas County Community College District.

Earl Anthony Wayne

NASCO is a tri-national network of North American governments, businesses and education institutions “that are driven by a common interest to collaborate along commercial corridors and trade networks.”

Wayne said a renegotiated NAFTA can result in growing trade and the creation of new jobs. He said new trade topics such as digital commerce and data flows could be brought into the NAFTA negotiations. And best practices developed since the advent of NAFTA in 1993 could be incorporated into the agreement, such as better sanitary and phytosanitary standards and intellectual property protections.

In parallel, North America could benefit from better cooperation on workforce development, Wayne said. Among his conclusions: a public-private process that brings together governments, the private sector and others to discuss and apply best practices in workforce development, is important.

Here are Wayne’s prepared remarks:

“A key challenge for all three North American economies is the training and education of their workforces as jobs, industries and sectors evolve and transform. The need for workforce development will likely only increase as new technologies are deployed and as we move into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, with higher use of advance technology in manufacturing and throughout the economy.

“The modernization of NAFTA may touch on some aspects of workforce needs in North America. However, most of the relevant issues for workforce development across the continental production chains will not be addressed in the negotiations themselves. Yet these issues must be addressed both because our economies need skilled workers and because so much concern has focused on the issue of job losses among NAFTA partners.

“Thus, in parallel to the NAFTA process, North America could benefit greatly from a public-private process that brings together governments, the private sector and various other actors to discuss and implement best practices in workforce development to better support preservation and creation of jobs during the technological changes and global competition ahead.

“We should think through how the three economies, Mexico, Canada and the U.S., can better work together and collaborate to address skills shortages and to develop an adequate workforce for the jobs of the future. We should seek to learn from best practices across the continent and try to apply them more broadly. Building and expanding partnerships will be an essential part of this process. Areas to explore for North American collaboration include: apprenticeships, data collection, certifications and transitioning to Industry 4.0.”

In a powerpoint presentation, Wayne pointed out that Canada, Mexico and the U.S. trade some $1.24 trillion a year. That equals $3.3 billion a day, with much of it part of shared production networks. He said this volume of trade is more than with all the European Union and 1.9 times more than with China.

Wayne also pointed out that 14 million U.S. jobs are supported by trade with Mexico and Canada. He said that in 2015, Canada’s and Mexico’s foreign direct investment in the U.S. reached $285 billion and that the US had $445 billion in foreign direct investment in Canada and Mexico.

Over 50 percent of U.S. imports from Canada and Mexico are intermediate goods used in U.S. production, and that U.S. manufacturing greatly depends on these intermediate imports, Wayne said.

Looking at the auto industry, Wayne said Michigan’s automotive industry relies on the United States’ neighbors because they supply 61 percent of intermediate goods imports. And Canada and Mexico supply Ohio with three billion dollars worth of auto parts, Indiana with two billion, and Texas with six billion.

Other statistics outlined in the powerpoint: Washington imports over one billion from aerospace suppliers in Canada, and the U.S. imports about 30 percent of its medical devices and supplies. Mexico is a leading supplier of medical devices and supplies, while Tijuana has the highest concentration of medical device firms, with 70 percent being American-owned.

Click here to view Wayne’s powerpoint presentation.

Tiffany Melvin, president of NASCO, said: “As North America strengthens its global competitive advantage in advanced manufacturing and logistics, we are facing significant and growing labor market shortfalls. We share a common challenge, and also a common opportunity, to ‘up-skill’ and grow our next generation of front-line manufacturing and logistics workers by streamlining and harmonizing our approach to standards and training — and to bring maximum value to workforce credentials.”

Mark Hays, Dallas County Community College District’s vice chancellor for workforce and economic development, said: “With NAFTA, immigration and workforce challenges among the three countries dominating the news, it is critical for us to understand the effects of policy decisions in Washington, Ottawa and Mexico City. Participation from members of the business and education communities — plus government officials from state, national and international levels — is vital to this event as we explore solutions to common issues faced by all three countries.’

Dr. Joe May, chancelllor of Dallas County Community College District, said: “Workforce training and development is critical to the economic success and growth of our area, Texas and North America. As a higher education partner in this state and region, DCCCD is working with business and government leaders to solve the issues that we face today — lack of a skilled workforce, the effects of global competitiveness and changing policies worldwide.”

May signed a memorandum of understanding agreement by Raul Martinez, president of the National Association of Technological Universities of Mexico.