NAFTA Negotiations Represent a Critical Choice for U.S.

Joshua Bolten, President & CEO, Business Roundtable

October 11, 2017

As the fourth round of negotiations on NAFTA take place in Washington this week into next week, it represents a critical moment for the United States. Modernizing this agreement would deliver more economic growth and more benefits to job creators and American families. But withdrawing from NAFTA or adding restrictions on U.S. trade with Canada and Mexico to NAFTA would hurt U.S. growth, jobs and competitiveness.

While we strongly support President Trump’s goals of stronger economic growth and job creation, and making American companies more globally competitive through U.S. tax and regulatory reform, withdrawing from or weakening trade agreements would undermine the Administration’s efforts to achieve these goals.

The companies represented at the Business Roundtable are very concerned with reports that the Trump Administration will weaken NAFTA with drastic changes that would disrupt supply chains that have greatly benefited U.S. businesses, workers, and consumers over the last two decades. Even worse, withdrawal from NAFTA would put at stake millions of American jobs in every sector of the U.S. economy, the competitiveness of U.S.-produced goods and services, and our country’s standing as a global economic leader.

As negotiations begin today, we believe there are clear “DO”s and “DON’Ts when it comes to modernizing NAFTA:

  • DO strengthen intellectual property protection and enforcement.
  • DON’T do away with the agreement’s trilateral structure.
  • DO facilitate the ability of small- and medium-sized businesses to access Canadian and Mexican markets.
  • DON’T increase barriers to trade in goods, services, and investments.
  • DO promote e-commerce and digital trade in goods and services.
  • DON’T undermine Investor-State Dispute Settlement provisions that ensure Canada and Mexico treat U.S. investors fairly.

Those principles are included among many others in a letter the Business Roundtable sent President Trump back in May to guide NAFTA negotiations in a way that would benefit U.S. companies and workers.

But this is not just an issue of growing the American economy; it’s about continuing to lead the rest of the globe. Withdrawing from or weakening trade agreements like NAFTA would only benefit our competitors in Europe and Asia, including China. If the United States withdraws from NAFTA, U.S. manufacturers, farmers, and workers will forfeit their preferential market access in Canada and Mexico, handing it over to our foreign competitors in China, Japan, and the EU. Canada and Mexico are negotiating trade agreements like NAFTA with our foreign competitors, who are eager to see their tariffs slashed so they can take sales from U.S. exporters and workers in the North American marketplace.

The choice is clear. We can modernize NAFTA to strengthen U.S. economic growth, job creation, and our standing in the world, or we can undermine that growth and cede economic leadership to Europe and China. We will be watching these NAFTA negotiations closely, and look forward to working with the Trump Administration and Congress on expanding, bolstering, and enforcing this and other trade agreements.