Changing NAFTA is a good idea. Ditching it isn’t.

Photo by Reynaldo Leal

Heading into 2018, there are few issues more important to Texas’ long-term economic success than what happens with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). As you are probably aware, President Trump made opposition to this trade agreement and others a prominent part of his campaign for the presidency. As late as July 2017, the President said in a tweet (go figure!) that NAFTA was “the worst trade deal ever made” and said the administration “may have to terminate” the agreement altogether.

Recently, the administration’s tone and tenor has seemed somewhat tempered from those statements. That is a good thing, but by no means an assurance that termination of the agreement is off the table. I applaud the president’s willingness and eagerness to revisit decades-old trade agreements to ensure the American people are benefitting from such arrangements. In regards to NAFTA, there are some tweaks and changes that could be very beneficial for the American people.

One example would be revising NAFTA’s terms on e-commerce. After all, in 1994, e-commerce was in its infancy and not much thought was given to the enormous impact it would have over trade in the coming decades.

However, I join a rising chorus of Republican elected officials to urge President Trump against terminating NAFTA. Politico recently reported that several GOP governors are meeting with the Trump administration to express the same sentiment.

Conservatives have argued for years about the benefits of free-trade agreements. We should not abandon that principle now. Not only are free-trade agreements generally beneficial for the United States economy, the NAFTA agreement is specifically vital for Texas’ economy.

Texas would stand to lose probably more than any other entity were the United States to pull out of NAFTA. It’s hard to overstate the importance of our state’s trade relationship with Mexico. Our neighbor to the south is the state’s largest export market. A full 40 percent of Texas’ exports travel to Mexico. We import about 35 percent of our goods from them as well. In fact, according to the Census Bureau, Texas’ export trade with Mexico is larger than our export totals to the next 16 countries combined. Over 380,000 Texas jobs depend on our trade with Mexico as well.

I have been pleased to see U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas advocate for continued strong trade relations with Mexico. They agree that there could be some positive revisions to NAFTA. As the senators stated in a joint op-ed, “In NAFTA renegotiations, we have the opportunity to reduce unnecessary regulations that will help strengthen our economy, and all of North America can move closer toward energy independence.” These are good things for our state and the country as a whole. However, the senators caution against radical changes which would curtail our ability to trade with Mexico. To modernize and update our trade agreements is a good thing. A wholesale abandonment of the agreement, or free-trade principles in general, is not.

Texans should stand against any efforts that would cripple our thriving trade with Mexico. Mexico is not only a great trade partner but a friend that helps enrich the lives of Texans in many other ways. NAFTA has been good for the state for over two decades and will continue to be positive for us in the years and decades ahead. I ask that all of our elected officials, especially those within the president’s own party, continue to advocate in every way possible for the continuance of NAFTA. Texas’ economic future depends on it.

Matt Krause

State representative, R-Fort Worth