Dallas Morning News
“Our first goal is to have more trade not less, our objective is to first of all do no harm.”
This was Robert Lighthizer’s answer to a question I posed during his June appearance in front of the House Ways and Means Committee. Confirmed by the U.S. Senate just weeks earlier, Ambassador Lighthizer is the Trump Administration’s U.S. Trade Representative, America’s ambassador to the international trade community.
As America’s No. 1 exporter, Texas is a prime beneficiary of American trade agreements. Look no further than North Texas to view the positive economic impact of America’s trade relationships on our local businesses.
DFW International Airport lies in the heart of the Congressional district I represent. Millions of people from all over the world experience DFW as passengers, but it is also a main artery for international trade at the commercial level. The airport contributes $37 billion annually to the North Texas economy, and much of that can be traced to the nearly 830,000 tons of cargo transported through DFW airport each year.
In June, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings led a delegation to Canada to highlight North Texas’ important economic relationship with America’s ally and second largest trading partner. The Toronto region is the No. 1 trading partner with North Texas and Mexico’s capital city is right behind as our second largest trade region.
Texans reap the rewards of sound trade policies on a daily basis. Last year alone, the country’s largest trade agreement, NAFTA, directly influenced more than 375,000 Texas jobs. The trilateral agreement between Mexico, Canada and the U.S. helps our family budgets go further with lower costs on the household products we use every day. The agreement provides our farmers and ranchers with greater opportunity to export goods and gives our local businesses a larger customer base to buy their products and services.
The Trump Administration on May 18 notified Congress that the president would keep a campaign promise to renegotiate NAFTA, a move that affects nearly half a billion people. The notification started the clock on a 90-day consultation period before formal negotiations between the three countries commence.
NAFTA was created with the goal of removing barriers to trade, increasing opportunity and providing a common market for goods and services throughout North America. However, the economic profile of the Texas economy and the global economy have changed dramatically in the quarter-century since NAFTA was signed in San Antonio. The present-day, connected culture we enjoy was in its infancy. For a guide to reengineering NAFTA, we would be wise to build on the framework of the original agreement and modernize it to reflect the rapidly expanding digital economy.
The digital services market must be addressed in future NAFTA negotiations. When the original agreement was implemented, Amazon was just a few days old. American based companies that provide users with a global online marketplace like eBay, Facebook and Google were not yet conceived. Local businesses now have access to more customers than ever through e-commerce.
A little over two weeks from now, representatives from each country will gather in Washington and begin renegotiating NAFTA. Using the original framework and enhancing the agreement to reflect the modern landscape of goods and services, physical and digital, is the path forward. There’s broad consensus on the need to update NAFTA to benefit future generations of American workers and American companies.
More trade, not less. And do no harm. With these as the guiding principle of Ambassador Lighthizer and the Trump Administration, Texas and the United States will benefit from a new NAFTA.
Kenny Marchant is a Republican representing Irving in the U.S. House. Website: marchant.house.gov