Opinion Editorial: U-T San Diego, NAFTA Partners Seek to Build on Successes


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Twenty years ago, the United States, Mexico, and Canada launched a bold experiment known as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which created the largest free trade area in the world. NAFTA removed trade barriers, opened our markets to one another, and allowed for unprecedented regional cooperation on a broad range of security, social, and commercial issues that have benefited each of our countries and economies.

Two decades later, U.S. goods-and-services trade with Canada and Mexico has grown to $1.2 trillion. Our goods exports to Canada and Mexico in 2012 were $508.1 billion, up 258 percent since NAFTA was implemented. The GDP of each of our nations has grown by more than 50 percent and, combined, we now account for about a quarter of the world’s GDP ($18.7 trillion).

This week, I joined Canadian Minister of International Trade Ed Fast, Mexican Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo, and numerous business leaders at the North American Competitiveness and Innovation Conference in La Jolla to focus on how continued cooperation between our three nations can propel us forward, strengthen our economies, and create jobs. The partnerships we’ve achieved through NAFTA are a very strong foundation, but we have to expand them to take advantage of new opportunities in an increasingly global economy.

NAFTA has helped integrate and strengthen our supply chains, increase trade, and build business in the United States and our neighboring countries, but it is important that we continue working together to deepen our economic relationship. And we are doing that — both trilaterally through engagements like the conference in La Jolla and multilaterally through the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.

Along with the United States, Canada and Mexico are members of the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is currently being negotiated with some of the world’s largest and fastest-growing economies. Once completed, the TPP, which will create a single trading community that represents nearly 40 percent of global GDP, will give the United States, Canada, and Mexico improved access to markets across the Asia-Pacific region and will support even more export-oriented jobs. Today, approximately 10 million American jobs are supported by goods-and-services exports to countries all over the world.

In TPP, we are seeking new and strengthened commitments that go beyond NAFTA in priority areas for the United States, such as those related to labor and to the environment. We’ll also get to address new issues like the digital economy, which weren’t even in our lexicon when NAFTA was negotiated. TPP negotiations are an opportunity to act on President Obama’s promise to improve upon NAFTA and make trade work better for America’s working families.

It’s no secret that increased globalization brings with it increased competition, and as competitors seek to expand their reach globally, it is our job to showcase why North America remains the most attractive place in the world in which to do business. Our advantages are many. We’re a market of more than 460 million consumers, projected to reach 630 million by 2060. Our economies are growing. North America is a source of abundant and affordable energy, and we have a skilled, productive, and affordable workforce. We’ve made tremendous investments in research, development and innovation that will pay dividends in years to come.

At the North American Competitiveness and Innovation Conference, we’re working on ways to build on our strengths and enhance the advantages to doing business in North America. Our countries are working together to align our regulations in certain sectors, deepen our supply chain integration in key industries, promote the advantages of investing in North America, support economic development initiatives to strengthen our border communities, encourage entrepreneurship, and promote North America as a tourism destination.

As we unite around common goals and work toward even greater integration, we can look forward to a stronger and more competitive North America.

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