A NAFTA country is your state’s top export market. Period. And it does not matter on which side of the state line you live.
Mexico is Kansas’ No. 1 export market. Our southern neighbor brought the state $1.8 billion last year, followed by Canada at $1.7 billion, according to the International Trade Administration.
In Missouri, Canada is tops at $5.2 billion in 2016, followed by Mexico at $2.5 billion.
So President Donald Trump’s latest round of bellicose bleating about yanking the U.S. out of the North American Free Trade Agreement captures the rapt attention of local business leaders.
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They aren’t taking this as an idle threat, despite legal questions about whether an executive order could unwind a trade accord agreed to by Congress.
At the very least, the president is continuing to strain relations as the three countries are midway through a series of negotiations on the 23-year-old deal.
Portions of the agreement should be revisited and realigned for current markets, industry needs and concerns. The aim isn’t to implode it down to two countries.
The main drivers of our regional economy — jobs involving transportation equipment, chemicals, processed foods, machinery and electrical equipment — would be heavily impacted if Trump somehow managed to successfully dismantle NAFTA.
As a businessman with global investments, one would hope that Trump will wake up to the economic damage that would ensue if he follows through on this campaign promise to his base — voters who eagerly bought the lie that NAFTA was “the worst trade deal” ever signed by the United States.
The 100,000 Missourians and 50,000 Kansans holding jobs that depend on trade with Mexico would surely disagree.
In his first days in office, Trump yanked the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership with nine Asia-Pacific countries. Other countries are now moving forward, leaving the U.S. out of those possible markets.
Gerónimo Gutiérrez Fernández, the Mexican Ambassador to the United States, recently visited the Kansas City area. The ambassador was unequivocal about how Mexico will react if Trump pulls the plug on NAFTA.
Doing so would be among the “clear red lines” that Trump could cross.
“If that happens, Mexico will not sit down at the table again,” he said.
Besides, a new Pew Research Center poll finds that 56 percent of Americans believe that NAFTA has been good for the U.S., compared to 33 percent who think its impact is negative.
Those skeptics ought to assess the news from last week. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said he is working with Congress to devise a plan to mitigate the losses to farmers if NAFTA goes under.
Sounds like an acknowledgment. Even Trump’s closest advisers see the damage that could occur.
The U.S. will not fare well as an isolationist country with nowhere to export to, and no country willing to import to us.
As a nation, the United States is not strongest standing alone. Our interests are interrelated with the economies of many countries, and they benefit from supply chains that stretch across borders.
The most significant of those ties — those that are imperative for our economic stability — are with our geographic neighbors to the north and south: Canada and Mexico.