Modernizing NAFTA to Improve Economic Opportunity

Manufacturing accounts for a significant segment of North Carolina’s competitive economy, producing 20 percent of the state’s total output and employing 10.8 percent of the workforce. In recent decades, North Carolina has reinvented itself as a leader in high-tech manufacturing across an array of business sectors, while also growing traditional manufacturing sectors. As North Carolina exports billions of dollars in manufactured goods every year, Canada and Mexico remain our largest customers by far. This fact makes the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and any potential negotiations critical to the state’s manufacturing industry.

As the National Association of Manufacturers’ (NAM) exclusive state affiliate, the NC Chamber joined the organization’s NAFTA Task Force to advocate for the interests of North Carolina manufacturers and stay closely connected to federal efforts to modernize NAFTA. In May, U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer notified Congress of President Trump’s intention to begin NAFTA negotiations with Canada and Mexico. Following this announcement, the USTR sought public comments on modernizing NAFTA to be taken under consideration as negotiation positions are crafted. Prior to the closing of this period on June 12, the NAM submitted public comment, welcoming the opportunity to review and improve the 23-year old agreement. The organization’s comments advocated for outcomes that will “sustain and grow higher-paying American jobs and grow U.S. manufacturing production, exports and competitiveness,” while also noting that a “renegotiated NAFTA must also be fully consistent with the substantive TPA trade negotiating objectives contained in the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015” and that it is “vital to ensure that any renegotiation does not set back U.S. manufacturing or manufacturing jobs.”

Last year, Canada and Mexico purchased one-third of all U.S. manufactured goods exports – that’s more than the next ten U.S. trading partners combined. America needs more open and fair trade to build our economy and make our manufacturers stronger. Improving trade policies to strengthen global competitiveness and knock down border and other unfair barriers will allow our manufacturers to sustain and increase good-paying American jobs. A public hearing will be held on June 27 at the U.S. International Trade Commission to discuss “Negotiating Objectives Regarding Modernization of NAFTA.” We will be paying close attention to this issue and will update you on any breaking developments as negotiations are considered.

Gary J. Salamido
Vice President, Government Affairs
North Carolina Chamber

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