When the Trump Administration announced plans to renegotiate the North America Trade Agreement (NAFTA), that began an official public comment period on the 25-year old agreement. We asked our nationwide network to share their opinions and advice with the Administration, and more than 200 business leaders gave us comments to submit to the Administration.
A majority (56 percent) of business leaders we surveyed said NAFTA has been good for their companies, but most also agree that the agreement needs to be modernized. Many of these business leaders noted that technology has changed greatly since the agreement was finalized in 1994. The U.S. and their companies could benefit from increased intellectual property protections and regulations governing e-commerce. Other business leaders suggested they would benefit with more flexible labor provisions.
Nearly one in three business leaders in our survey hope NAFTA remains in place as it is. Many of these business leaders’ companies rely on the free trade agreement. Withdrawing or renegotiating it, they say, would create business uncertainly and could force them to slow hiring or even close completely. Some export their products to Mexico and Canada, and others import parts or ingredients. They worry that increased prices on either would reduce the desirability of their products.
Fifteen percent of business leaders hope the Administration withdraws from NAFTA completely. Some of these business leaders have said that their businesses have suffered since the trade agreement was signed.
Below, read what some of the business leaders had to say.
Do you agree or disagree with their stance? Let us know by filling out this form.
Advice from Business Leaders
“Withdrawing from NAFTA will damage what have been continuously improving relationships with Mexico and Canada. Withdrawing would be a critical setback for our very positive and productive relations.” —Susan Shultz, President, The Board Institute, Paradise Valley, AZ
“NAFTA has allowed our business to increase exports, which has led to us creating more jobs. If tariffs are increased on our medical products we will lose jobs.” —Russ Yelton, CEO, Pinnacle Transplant Technologies, Phoenix, AZ
“NAFTA has hurt small businesses and farmers. It has been responsible, in part, for dislocating small scale farming, increasing poverty, migration, urbanization, and illegal immigration. NAFTA has lowered wages and environmental protections for Mexicans. This is not in the best interests of Mexicans, or Americans. In both nations, there are necessary protections in place for protected industries and agriculture, as well as “barriers to trade” that serve to protect people and their environments.” —Malia Everette, CEO, Altruvistas, El Sobrante, CA
“NAFTA has benefited the USA and a lot of freight forwarding companies like mine.” —Francisco Ramirez, Automated Customs Expert, President, San Diego, CA
“My family lost generations of workers after the passage of NAFTA.” —Terry Gravely, Owner, Minority Capital Advisors, Los Angeles, CA
“Until NAFTA, our company was not able to sell our machines into Mexico, due to high tariffs. We now are exporting a significant amount of products into Mexico and Canada. They are an important part of our business. We do not want to see the U.S. take a step back by imposing higher tariffs for imports. This will cause a trade war and negatively impact exports, many American businesses, and employment. Further, any tariffs will undoubtedly mean higher prices for the consumer.” —Janet Wells, Insta Graphic Systems, President, Cerritos, CA
“NAFTA benefits us, but dairy quotas into Canada should be more open. Rules of origin should be simplified to assist smaller importers and exporters.” —Scott Dale, Importer, TCW, Brookfield, CT
“Balance should be established to converting negative aspects regarding NAFTA such as: excessive pollution, compensate jobs lost, wage suppression in United States, farmers going out of business in Mexico, exploitation of Mani Maquiladora workers, environmental deterioration in Mexico. Make it perfect for the satisfaction of all. NAFTA can function under the Department of Resources or Distribution or Agriculture.” —Rene Blanc, President, Rebgeny Construction, Boca Raton, FL
“NAFTA serves to strengthen economic and political ties with neighboring countries. Full removal of NAFTA is truly unwise. Like any trade agreement, there is room for improvement.” —Astrid Kowlessar, Vezta Co., Director, Miami, FL
“They are old and updated regulations in the NAFTA.” —Jeff Kyte, Landfall Strategies, President, Venice, FL
“NAFTA is an opportunity to work peacefully and cooperatively with our neighboring countries. It is a good stepping stone to better agreements in the future.” —Benjamin Bacon, Owner and Designer, Plane Space Design,Savannah, GA
“To withdraw from this pact is unproductive. We should rather expand and encourage a greater North American trade to include all Americas. China is busy building trade routes across the Silk Road and we are amateurishly reclining into our own shelf. We must think better and stop self-destructive policies of nationalization. Let’s open trade and opportunities to all.” —Innocent Ugochukwu, CEO, ZDGLLC, Powder Springs, GA
“NAFTA, as all trade agreements do, is aging and is in need of updating. The present agreement cannot be expected to cover changes that have occurred since it came into force. Those parts of TPP already agreed by the three NAFTA countries would be a good starting point.” —Stephen Craven, Retired Trade Negotiator, Hawaii Pacific Export Council, Honolulu, HI
“NAFTA is working as it was supposed to for the agriculture industry. Please don’t mess with that part of it. American Agriculture needs it and Mexico and Canada in turn needs us. —Duane Aistrope, Owner, Aistrope Farms, Randolph, IA
“We have used NAFTA in support of our business for 15 years and it has been good for us. However, I know that it has hurt some businesses due to less expensive labor in Mexico and currency issues in Canada. We are all in this together and need to compete on an even playing field.” —Pierce Barker III, President and Owner, ProStuff, Rockford, IL
“NAFTA is working, don’t mess with it. Withdrawing from the TPP was a HUGE mistake; now China will fill the gap.” —Jeff Dziura, Vice President of International, New Medical Technology, Inc., Northbrook, IL
“NAFTA has tremendously strengthened the export opportunities in central Illinois. Given more than 20 years history, some modernization could be beneficial.” —James Foley, Director, IL SBDC International Trade Center, Bradley University, Peoria, IL
“In a complicated and intricately involved global system of manufacturing, research, and development, I would like to see the U.S. investment in research help develop research opportunities for U.S. students in university research labs. I would also like to see the technology transferred to U.S. companies at home for highly educated Americans. In the whole process, our intellectual property system and anti-hacking laws need more enforcement and regulation.” —Margaret Clements, Director and President, Center for Knowledge Diffusion, Bloomington, IL
“The success of the Kansas farmer hinges on the United States’ ability to sell crops to hungry consumers around the world. Trade deals that create access to foreign markets for American farmers are critical to the success of our country. Perhaps the most important foreign market for wheat farmers is Mexico. The fallout of losing a share of the Mexican market would be felt by thousands of American farmers. At a time when wheat farmers are facing tough prices and a tough ag economy, losing Mexico would have disastrous implications for an already dire situation.” —Daniel Heady, Government Affairs Director, Kansas Wheat, Manhattan, KS
“NAFTA helps keep countless Louisianans employed, as trade is vital to our economy. Though NAFTA creates wealth it should be improved by modernization.” —Saul Newsome, Attorney, Breazeale, Sachse, and Wilson LLP, Baton Rouge, LA
“We insure over 900 U.S. industrial manufacturers. NAFTA is not the problem, finding skilled individuals who are willing to give an honest day’s work is the problem.” —Donald Marette, Chief Marketing Officer, LPGM Health, Chevy Chase, MD
“NAFTA is legitimate and important for small business owners in America as it relates to healthy business relations with our neighbors. Sill, it can be Improved.” —Aneshal Miller, Workforce Development Professional Coordinator, Taja Beauty, Burtonsville, MD
“Honor our agreements.” —Robyn Travis, CEO, Travis Consulting, Germantown, MD
“Fair free trade is the lifeblood of opportunities for American businesses. A level playing field is important to foster innovations and healthy competition.” —Ron Staniszerski, Latitude Security Solutions, Middlesex, NJ
“NAFTA is decidedly anti-American. Thousands of workers have lost their jobs, I’m one of them. It should be scrapped in favor of FAIR TRADE between all signers.” —Tina Gallagher, Self-Employed, Writer, Flora Vista, NM
“The United States should not withdraw from NAFTA; it is beneficial to all three involved countries.” —Shirley Pierre, Owner and President, Pierre Commerce International, Las Vegas, NV
“NAFTA has made it easier for U.S. companies to move production overseas for higher profit margins. This has a significantly negative impact on the local job market. There are less jobs for young people and those that exist are low-paying and without possibilities of advancement or real career pathways!” —Liliana Belkin, Educational Administrator, NYC Department of Education, Brooklyn, NY
“Our company exports U.S.-made renewable energy equipment to more than 45 countries. I pay for my children and my house mortgage by exporting American products made in Texas to Mexico under NAFTA. Killing NAFTA will destroy our export business. Thank you.” —Pierre Tierney, CEO, World Technology Corporation, New York, NY
“I believe that NAFTA has hurt the US economy.” —Antoinette Wooten, Proprietor, Wooten Legal Counseling, Inc. Brooklyn, NY
“Our firm is working on procuring two projects in Mexico. They can result in at least 8 to 10 engineering jobs and more than 20 manufacturing jobs. Both are led by innovative technology.” —Steve Jones, President, Jaap-Orr/Green Energy Enterprises, Cincinnati, OH
“Continuous improvement is critical element to the growth of this country’s manufacturing sectors and this is what must continue to happen with the NAFTA agreement. We shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” —Icy Williams, Owner and President, ATMOS360, Inc., Cincinnati, OH
“We have watched our business evaporate since GATT and NAFTA were signed. China is our biggest competitor. Bring manufacturing back to the US!” —Pamela Romeo, President and CEO, JARA Manufacturing, Inc., Butler, PA
“It is an outdated agreement and we need to turn it into a 21st century one.” —Patricia Rote, Co-Founder of the Girls of Steel Robotics,Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA
“My company is a small producer of OEM materials that travel through Mexico and Canada as integral parts for finished products. We are a small business with less than 50 employees. These experienced jobs, which require specialized skills, would be jeopardized by more restrictions. I speak for many in my company size and industry that have built successful niche production. I invite any questions for further explanation.” —Stanley Shatz, CEO, Norman Shatz Company USA, Bensalem, PA
“Almost 20% percent of our company’s USA-made bed sheets ship to Canada and Mexico. NAFTA is vital to supporting USA manufacturing jobs in the textile industry.” —Timothy Voit, Chief Marketing Officer, Thomaston Mills, Jenkintown, PA
“NAFTA is one of the best things for small companies that export like mine. We can export without expenses such as legal fees and tariffs. NAFTA helps the U.S. focus in what we’re good at and take advantage in what we’re not. Best of both worlds.” —Ernesto Almada, Owner, Amex Wholesaler Corp., San Antonio, TX
“As a small family-owned and operated business, our international business is very important to us. We would like to do more business with our neighbors, Mexico and Canada, and having reduced costs (tariffs, duties, freight costs) would be beneficial for all involved.” —Michele Beckley, VP Operations, Merlot Corporation / Merlot Skin Care, El Paso, TX
“Technology has dramatically changed since the original implementation of NAFTA in 1994. At the minimum, the transmission of entries and operation at the border should be revisited. The issue of import payments of IVA (VAT) should also be reviewed as well as anti-dumping tariffs. We have the chance here to make the border and the U.S. economy thrive by focusing on those provisions of NAFTA that will facilitate trade.” —Angela Hopson, VP Operations and Owner, FAK Distribution, Houston, TX
“NAFTA should address anti-corruption enforcement in a more coordinated way. It should allow governments to prosecute corrupt companies in all of North America (Mexico, USA and Canada).” —Javier Lopez, Attorney, ScottHulse PC, San Antonio, TX
“Trade with Mexico and Canada benefits all of us and keeps business in the Americas. We will lose our trade position if we withdraw or severely alter NAFTA, and will be weaker for not building stronger trade with fewer barriers.” —Paul Sawyer, Owner, Paul M. Sawyer, PGT, Dallas, TX
“Strategically located in El Paso, Texas, PMT is positioned to serve maquiladoras (twin plants) in Mexico. Our company exports over 85 percent of all components made–the majority to Mexico. PMT was awarded an Export Achievement Award from the US Dept. of Commerce International Trade Administration in 2015 for our contributions to our area’s manufacturing exports.
“Our company is intertwined with the maquila industry, which grew exponentially in Mexico after the implementation of NAFTA. NAFTA is one of the driving factors in PMT’s relocation from Connecticut 12 years ago. When the global companies we serve set up operations in Mexico to take advantage of NAFTA, we moved closer to the border as a strategic supplier.
“With over $1 billion USD in trade passing through US/Mexico Points of Entry each day, PMT is integrated into the border trade environment. Today, PMT has 98 full-time employees and 25 temporary employees. Our ability to retain and expand our workforce is dependent on our global customers’ ability to grow in North America. —Charles Sholtis, CEO, Plastic Molding Technology, El Paso, TX
“As requested by the Trump Administration, we are glad to submit our comments for consideration during the renegotiation of NAFTA. Our comments would apply for the area of labor issues.” —Carlos Silva, President, USATEQ, LLC, San Antonio, TX
“Labor Issues: Considering that American companies, especially small businesses, rely on affordable labor costs and its availability to remain competitive not only in the domestic market but also around the world, it would be beneficial to have access to that labor. We are in the construction equipment business and laws and regulations of the infrastructure construction and energy industries directly affect our potential. Our business would benefit with more flexible labor provisions.
“If NAFTA could include some provisions for these industries, particularly for the energy industry, it will significantly benefit both countries. Many companies in the U.S. of various sizes have capabilities and capacity to develop the oil and gas industry in Mexico. American companies could replicate what they did in Texas when developed the Eagle Ford Shale in about five years. If those American companies, many of them mid and small-size companies, were allowed to go to Mexico to perform specific projects with defined schedules and scope of work, and bring their equipment and experienced personnel to do the job with reasonable registration requirements and reporting (something that is affordable and achievable) then Mexico would immediately have access to a whole industry that would bring experience, capability and capacity as the big players would bring their own supply chain to help develop their own projects. The benefit for Mexico would be the development of the oil and gas industry in reasonable timeframe instead of doing this with their current resources in generations-to-come, not to mention the know-how transfer and development of local infrastructure to support the new industry needs. The U.S. economy would benefit from a greater demand of goods and services.
“For the infrastructure construction industry, the situation is similar but is more related to capacity. When the Mexican oil & gas industry development takes off, a major challenge its success is the availability of roads to access the new exploration sites. Those roads should be built or repaired to allow big rigs to travel to project sites. The benefit for Mexico in this case would be expediting their economic development and ensuring a fast development of oil and gas industry to its full potential. For American companies will be a greater demand of products and services.
“Also, American companies should be allowed to access labor readily available across the border to fulfill demand when needed it or when skilled labor is not available in the local market. This should be with a reasonable registration and reporting process.” —Carlos Silva, President, USATEQ, LLC, San Antonio, TX
“NAFTA provides for the strategic partnership of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico to utilize the talent and resources of all countries facilitating a stronger manufacturing presence.” —Jason Wolfe, CEO and President, NovaLink, Brownsville, TX
U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS
“Our trade agreements have lowered the American standard of living, but increased that of other countries. Please continue to level the playing field.” —Michael Joseph, Attorney, Self-Employed, Frederiksted, VI
“NAFTA benefits many of the companies I work with. There are opportunities to grow e-commerce, but dealing with border taxes that are more applicable for larger/high value single shipments and repatriating payments are a barrier to growth.” —Natalie Sullivan, Trade Finance, Regional Bank, Seattle, WA