As the leader of Cummins, an Indiana-based global power company that employs 25,000 people in the United States, I am charged with providing opportunities for our employees and the communities in which they live and work. For both, international trade has been the single most important contributor to growth and hiring for nearly two decades. And when Cummins grows, we support the growth of our 2,500 U.S. suppliers, many of which are small- and medium-sized businesses.
For this to continue, it is imperative that we are able to access the 95 percent of the world’s consumers who reside outside of the United States with high-quality and competitively-priced products. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and our other free trade agreements have allowed us to do just that. I firmly believe expanding U.S. trade opportunities and modernizing NAFTA are good policy and would strongly support U.S. economic growth, jobs and global competitiveness. I also believe that withdrawing from or weakening NAFTA and restricting U.S. trade opportunities with countries like Canada and Mexico would cost the U.S. millions of jobs and significantly damage our competitiveness.
The Administration and representatives of Mexico and Canada are currently in the fourth round of renegotiation the two-decade old agreement. While NAFTA has been good for American businesses, workers and farmers, I strongly support efforts to improve and modernize it in areas such as promoting digital commerce and cross-border data flows; ensuring fair U.S. competition with foreign state-owned enterprises, protecting U.S. intellectual property rights and investor rights (including through Investor-State Dispute Settlement provisions) and incorporating regulatory reforms in Canada and Mexico related to trade and investment.
More than any other free trade agreement, NAFTA has helped us compete for more customers. Since NAFTA’s bipartisan passage and enactment in 1994, overall trade has increased exponentially between the United States, Mexico and Canada. Prior to NAFTA, Mexico was one of the most protectionist countries in the world — Mexico’s policies all but mandated that our manufacturing take place within the country’s borders. Now, thanks to NAFTA, Cummins’ two largest export markets in the world are Canada and Mexico.
When we grow our business, we create more jobs right here in the United States. As I emphasized when testifying recently before the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade, international trade has enabled us to add thousands of American jobs during the past decade in cities across the country, like Minneapolis and Nashville, and in smaller towns in North Carolina, New York and our home state of Indiana.
The small town of Seymour in Southern Indiana is a prime example. While many rural towns are struggling, Seymour is thriving. We have invested more than $300 million to expand the plant and added a state-of-the-art technical center. We now have more than 1,300 employees in this community, nearly doubling the number based there five years ago. We were able to add jobs and make these investments because of our ability to access international markets like Canada and Mexico. In fact, we ultimately export 85 percent of the products made in our Seymour plant.
It is clear NAFTA has been a positive force, and we should embrace this opportunity to modernize this 23-year old agreement. At Cummins, when we can trade, we add jobs and invest in American communities.