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Home | Tag Archives: North American Free Trade Agreement

Tag Archives: North American Free Trade Agreement

To relief of Texas business leaders, Congress reaches deal on new North American trade agreement

WASHINGTON — Congress reached an agreement with the Trump administration Tuesday on a new North American free trade deal, leading lawmakers and business leaders in Texas to breathe a sigh of relief.

Hours after Democrats brought forth articles of impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, announced the deal alongside more than a dozen Democrats, among them Texas freshman U.S. Reps. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso; Colin Allred, D-Dallas; and Lizzie Fletcher, D-Houston.

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, a senior member of the Ways and Means Committee, called the deal a “21st Century trade agreement that not only encourages more trade but adds protection for the environment and workers.”

“While imperfect, the new tools included for effective enforcement should become the minimum included in future trade negotiations,” Doggett said in a statement, adding that it could be approved as soon as next week.

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement. On Tuesday, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer was in Mexico City presenting the agreement to the Mexican government. The House will likely pass the agreement in the coming weeks.

The months leading up to the agreement were particularly stressful for Texans in Congress; the border state’s economy relies heavily on trade, particularly with Mexico. Republicans have often blamed the deal’s slow negotiations on Democrats’ preoccupation with impeachment proceedings.

As recently as last week, many were beginning to lose faith that the deal would pass this year. Last week, more than half of Texas’ 36-member congressional delegation made statements pushing for approval.

The Trump administration reached a deal with Mexico and Canada more than a year ago, but Democrats objected to certain provisions, arguing that it was too friendly to pharmaceutical companies, didn’t do enough to protect workers and failed to hold manufacturers accountable to environmental laws. Generally, Republicans agreed with the deal.

U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, recently characterized the negotiations as “salami” legislation, in which a small piece is brought up and addressed at a time. That resulted in frustrating talks with trade representatives in Mexico, which passed massive labor reform as part of the agreement and then received more demands from U.S. representatives. U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from Laredo and one of the members most involved in the negotiations, stood next to more than a dozen of his Republican colleagues pushing for the deal to pass.

Ultimately, Democrats included a provision that allows American inspectors to enter Mexican factories to check for labor violations, which Mexico was not particularly averse to. They also pushed the Trump administration to remove a provision establishing a 10-year protection period for biologic drugs, which opponents say would allow drug companies to keep prices high. That was particularly important for representatives in border communities, whose constituents often buy prescription drugs in Canada or Mexico.

Meanwhile, Cuellar’s colleagues from the Rio Grande Valley, U.S. Reps. Vicente Gonzalez and Filemon Vela, sent a letter to Pelosi urging her to include provisions that would require security measures in highways that lead to Texas border cities. As those highways have become more dangerous to drive on, cities like McAllen and Brownsville have lost sales tax revenue as tourism from Mexico declines. As party leadership inched toward a deal, those security provisions did not appear to come up.

“I’m a little disappointed that we rushed this agreement even though the Senate won’t vote on it until next year,” Gonzalez said. “As I have said, if we’re talking about taxes and tariffs and we have an extra security cost or security that is affecting the bottom line of trade, then that’s definitely a missed opportunity.”

Gonzalez previously said he wouldn’t vote for the deal if it didn’t include the security provisions. On Tuesday, he said he will likely vote to approve it, but won’t stop pressuring Pelosi to address the issue.

“At the end of the day, it’s something that’s positive for Texas and positive for South Texas,” he said.

Business leaders in the state praised the deal on the whole, saying free trade was vital to the economies on both sides of the Texas-Mexico border.

“Following more than 30 months of negotiations, political maneuvering and the economic uncertainty that resulted, I am excited that the USMCA is moving forward,” said Justin Yancy, president of the Texas Business Leadership Council.

“This is a big win for Texas,” he added.

Author:  J. EDWARD MORENO – The Texas Tribune

NAFTA subject of U.S.-Mexico Border Summit

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was the predominant subject during the keynote address of Wednesday’s U.S.-Mexico Border Summit at the El Paso Convention Center.

Former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo addressed the hundreds in attendance about the current relationship between the two countries and the Trump Administration’s expressed desire to end the NAFTA agreement.

“This is not ‘business as usual’ for our relationship. It’s always bound to be complex and challenging, but for the most part in previous administrations there was a lot of effort put into mutual respect and understanding,” Zedillo stated.

Prior to being elected as Mexico’s President in 1994, Zedillo, obtained his master’s and PhD degrees from Yale University in economics. He went on to serve with the Bank of Mexico and was named deputy-secretary of Budget Control. Zedillo led the PRI party’s macroeconomic approach to government.

NAFTA was negotiated by President George H.W. Bush and ratified in 1994 by President Clinton. For the most part, most economists agree that the agreement has been beneficial to the U.S. and say withdrawal or renegotiation of the agreement would negatively impact the United States economy, but more so Mexican economy.

“Is this going to be the end of the world?” Zedillo asked the audience. “No, I think it would be bad and uncomfortable for Mexico, but I think there are ways we can compensate if NAFTA is destroyed by the U.S. Government.”

During the 30 minute speech, Zedillo did not once address President Trump by name, instead, preferring to use the term “The American Executive.”

He is not the first former Mexican President that appears to have bad blood with the current administration. Vicente Fox, who succeeded Zedillo as Mexico’s President in 2000 has famously argued on Twitter with Trump’s insistence that Mexico was going to pay for the wall between the two countries.

Wednesday’s summit, which was hosted by the Borderplex Alliance, also featured other round tables and breakout sessions which included political and economic leaders from both sides of the border. The event is held annually to discuss issues facing the Border region.

Author/Photographer: Andra Litton – Special to the El Paso Herald-Post

Hurd on the Hill: NAFTA Fuels the Texas Economy

What do you call the facilitation of $2 million of goods and services across our borders every minute? In Texas, we call it NAFTA.

In Texas, more than one million jobs, and fourteen million nationwide, depend on trade with Mexico and Canada.

Many of these Texas jobs are in the 23rd Congressional District. These jobs feed families in El Paso, San Antonio and everywhere in between. They include manufacturing, logistics, agriculture and energy. They fuel our local economies in West Texas, along the Rio Grande and all the way up I-35’s NAFTA superhighway.

Many folks don’t realize the magnitude of the impact that NAFTA has had on our economy. Since it was signed into law in San Antonio 24 years ago, America’s trade with Mexico and Canada has more than tripled. US-Mexico trade alone increased more than 280 percent between 1993 and 2016.

In 2015, Texas-Mexico trade amounted to approximately $94.5 billion, making Mexico Texas’ largest trading partner, surpassing the next four largest combined – Canada, Brazil, China and South Korea. And it’s paid off. With a $1.6 trillion GDP, if Texas was its own country, we’d have the tenth largest economy in the world.

But exports are only one piece of the pie. Imports create jobs too. In the last decade and a half, over 70 percent of imports from Mexico were intermediate goods, meaning, they weren’t finished and ready for market when they came into our country. They still required additional parts, assembly, transportation, and packaging.

Sometimes we think of imports and exports as static numbers, when in fact, goods often go back and forth across the border multiple times as they are produced. Another example of this is that forty percent of U.S. imports from Mexico were originally made in the U.S. – demonstrating further that the U.S., Mexico and Canada are actually building things together.

Lately, NAFTA has gotten a bad rap, because like all other 24-year-old business deals, it needs to be modernized to keep pace with policy changes, evolving industries and emerging technology. For example, in 1994, commercial use of the internet was not taken into account during negotiations. Neither was the ability for the U.S. to export crude oil or the natural gas discoveries in the Eagle Ford, Permian and Delaware Basins in Texas.

These are opportunities for us – and all Americans – to win big with NAFTA 2.0.

NAFTA is the lifeblood of many communities across TX-23 but there are areas where we can strengthen it. This week, I’ll be spending time with business owners and operators in Del Rio, Ciudad Acuña and Eagle Pass before heading up to Montreal for the next round of NAFTA discussions.

I look forward to witnessing how modern-day goods are jointly-produced, transported and eventually available to consumers worldwide. As we enter the next round of renegotiations, I will be there to remind our neighbors to the North and South about the tremendous impact that NAFTA has had on South and West Texas communities, and what we have to lose if negotiations fall flat.

***

A former undercover CIA officer, entrepreneur and cybersecurity expert, Will Hurd is the U.S. Representative for the 23rd Congressional District of Texas. In Washington, he serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, as Vice Chair of the Maritime and Border Security Subcommittee on the Committee for Homeland Security, and as the Chairman of the Information Technology Subcommittee on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Video+Story: Cornyn – Modernize, Don’t End, NAFTA

WASHINGTON – On Tuesday, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) discussed the importance of modernizing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as the fourth round of negotiations between the United States, Mexico, and Canada come to a close.

Excerpts of Sen. Cornyn’s remarks are below:

“Today is the fourth of seven rounds of negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trade has always been an important element in our economy, and certainly in my state, in Texas. We know that just between the United States and Mexico, that bilateral trade supports five million jobs. Between Canada and the United States, that bilateral trade supports eight million jobs in the United States.”

“So while we are working hard to pass pro-growth tax reform, which will allow American families to keep more of what they earn and improve their standard of living, we’re also looking to modernize these existing trade agreements to add to the growth of our economy and jobs right here in the United States.”

Trump Agrees Not to Terminate NAFTA

WASHINGTON — After a trial balloon went over poorly with Congress, President Donald Trump told foreign leaders Wednesday night that he wouldn’t end the North American Free Trade Agreement just yet.

Late Wednesday night, the White House released a statement backing off of the notion after the president spoke with the leaders of Canada and Mexico.

“President Trump agreed not to terminate NAFTA at this time and the leaders agreed to proceed swiftly, according to their required internal procedures, to enable the renegotiation of the NAFTA deal to the benefit of all three countries,” the statement said.

Texans in Congress had reacted with concern on Wednesday after reports surfaced that Trump was considering taking the first steps of possibly unwinding the agreement. Trump administration officials were reportedly considering issuing an executive order to signal the United States’ intent to withdraw from the trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, according to several news organizations.

U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, represents a district that shares the border with Mexico and was the most overtly unhappy member of the Texas delegation.

“He can do the same thing with his NAFTA order that he can do with his wall,” Vela said, alluding to a previous missive to Trump encouraging the future president to “take your border wall and shove it up your ass.”

“Killing NAFTA is going to kill the Texas economy,” he added. “It would be devastating.”

The highest-ranking Texas Republican in Congress, U.S. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, encouraged caution.

“I think we’d better be careful about unintended consequences,” said Cornyn, according to Politico.

Interviews with Capitol Hill staffers Wednesday afternoon showed Democrats are increasingly frustrated with how issues like NAFTA spring forward from the administration, even as Congress is attempting to address how to fund the government, resurrect a health care overhaul and rewrite the tax code.

Texas Republicans, who tend to support free trade, were similarly uncomfortable, but it it could prove unlikely that the rank-and-file House member who believes in free trade would oppose one of Trump’s signature campaign policies. Back in August, a number of Texas GOP members defended the trade agreement in statements to the Texas Tribune.

As reports surfaced about the possible executive order, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz‘s office pointed to comments the Texas Republican has previously made saying there is “no doubt that Texas benefits enormously from international trade,” including with Canada and Mexico. Cruz has expressed support for renegotiating NAFTA under Trump — he has said doing so is long overdue — but not abandoning it altogether.

Patrick Svitek contributed to this report.

Read related Tribune coverage:

Author:  ABBY LIVINGSTON – The Texas Tribune

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