Washington has lots riding on NAFTA

In 1993, President Bill Clinton was pictured holding a Washington State apple

  • Saturday, February 11, 2017 9:30am
  • Business
Washington has lots riding on NAFTA

By Don. C. Brunell

In 1993, President Bill Clinton was pictured holding a Washington State apple while promoting the virtues of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). That photo only underscored the importance of the agreement and our trade with Mexico and Canada.

Washington is the most trade dependent state in the nation. The Puget Sound Business Journal (PSBJ) reported last November, Washington State exported at least $134.5 billion worth of goods to Canada and Mexico since the agreement was signed.

The dust up over NAFTA focuses on Mexico from which we import more than we export. PSBJ figures Washington has 150,000 jobs depend directly on trade with Mexico which happens to be the world’s sixth largest exporter of aerospace parts to companies like Boeing.

NAFTA, negotiated under President George H.W. Bush and implemented by Clinton, eliminated most tariffs on traded goods between Canada, the United States and Mexico. It was designed to encourage economic integration among the three countries and thereby, boost the economic prosperity of all three.

In large part it has accomplished that goal. The Council on Foreign Relations reports trade between the three countries increased from $290 billion in 1993 to over $1 trillion in 2016.

States like Washington and Texas, the nation’s largest exporter, have benefitted. Texas, has more than a million jobs relying on exports, and Mexico accounts for roughly 37 percent of that total. Whereas, Washington’s exports to Mexico are heavy to agriculture, Texas sends mostly electronics, oil, gas and chemicals, and machinery south of the border.

The Business Insider recently reported NAFTA has been credited with helping the U.S. auto sector become globally competitive due to cross-border supply chains.

Midwestern auto workers don’t see it that way. They blame carmakers for abandoning plants and workers in states like Michigan and moving those factories and jobs to Mexico and China.

The frustration over trade agreements hit the boiling point during last year’s presidential campaign. Both socialist-leaning Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (D) and now President Donald Trump lambasted trade deals for killing American jobs and allowing companies to move to nations with lower wages and benefits; and, weaker worker protections and environmental regulations.

Trump called NAFTA “the worst trade deal in the history of the country” and confirmed his intent to renegotiate it since becoming president. That’s where the new president needs to exercise caution.

Trade agreements take years to negotiate and are carefully balanced. Scrapping NAFTA and imposing tariffs on Mexican and Canadian goods would likely trigger counter-tariffs imposed on U.S. products. The same goes for other international trade agreements..

While critics blame NAFTA for the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs, decline in manufacturing employment started over 40 years ago as robots and automation replaced assembly line workers. However, it took a nose dive between 2000 and 2009, according to U.S. Labor Dept. statistics, and has rebounded slowly since. Roughly, six million U.S. factory workers lost their jobs in that nine year period.

NAFTA has benefitted agriculture, which is particularly good news for Washington farmers, ranchers and tree-fruit growers. According to the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, agriculture exports to Mexico have doubled and increased by 44 percent to Canada since 1993.

It is always good to take a look at existing trade agreements, especially in our rapidly changing world. Modifications to those treaties should be carefully planned and negotiated with our trading partners, not hastily imposed by administration fiat.

Trade is a two-way street and no country gets all it wants. Hopefully, there is a better deal for American workers by opening up NAFTA. President Trump just needs to be more measured in his rhetoric and methodical in our national approach.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@covingtonreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.covingtonreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Business

Screenshot
WA Democrats consider new tax on billionaires

Plan could raise $5 billion from fewer than 100 taxpayers. Detractors fear it could drive Washington’s wealthiest out of state.

Last summer, people took advantage of the outdoor dining along First Avenue between Gowe and Titus streets in downtown Kent. In Phase 2 of the governor’s reopening plan, which was announced Jan. 28, restaurants can reopen at a maximum 25% capacity and a limit of six people per table. Photo courtesy of Kent Downtown Partnership
Restaurant reprieve: State to relax some indoor restrictions

On Monday, area restaurants and certain entertainment venues may resume indoor service, the governor said.

Stock photo
State Senate passes $1.7 billion in unemployment insurance tax relief

Targets relief to the most affected businesses; helps low-wage workers by raising their benefits

2021 Chevrolet Blazer. Courtesy photo
Car review: 2021 Chevrolet Blazer

By Larry Lark, contributor When it comes to certain car models they… Continue reading

2021 Lexus RX 350L. Courtesy photo
Car review: 2021 Lexus RX 350L

By Larry Lark, contributor It’s always a good day when a Lexus… Continue reading

The Cadillac CT4 is designed to appeal to a new generation of Cadillac buyers with its athletic design and astute driving dynamics. Courtesy photo
Car review: 2020 Cadillac CT4 Premium Luxury

By Larry Lark, contributor With apologies to Oldsmobile, “the 2020 CT4 Premium… Continue reading

2021 Mercedes E-350 luxury sedan. Courtesy photo
Car review: 2021 Mercedes E-350 luxury sedan

By Larry Lark, contributor Mercedes-Benz occupies rarified air in the automobile pantheon.… Continue reading

2021 Ford F-150 Platinum. Courtesy photo
Car review: 2021 Ford F-150 Platinum

By Larry Lark, contributor It’s always a call to action when a… Continue reading

737 MAX 7 Reveal - February 5, 2018. File photo
Boeing fined $2.5 billion for deceiving aircraft safety regulators

The Boeing Company has agreed to pay the Department of Justice over… Continue reading

Stock photo
State Department of Commerce awards grants to more than 7,800 small businesses

Newest $100 million grant round prioritized restaurants, fitness centers