NAFTA 2.0? Congressman Says Trump "Reboot" of NAFTA Will Benefit San Antonio
U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, whose vast congressional district includes more than 800 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border and 10 international crossings, has seen the benefits of the North American Free Trade Agreement first-hand.
But the anti-free trade populism that swept Republican Donald Trump into the presidency means that NAFTA will either be overhauled or scraped creating some uncertainty for cross-border businesses.
"I will renegotiate NAFTA," Trump tweeted during the final presidential debate. "If I can’t make a great deal, we’re going to tear it up."
While many businesses are concerned about the future of the trade deal, Hurd sees overhauling NAFTA as an opportunity, particularly when it comes to digital products, intellectual property rights and the energy sector.
Hurd told the San Antonio Business Journal that modern digital products and services did not exist when the trilateral trade deal between the United States, Canada and Mexico was drafted in 1992. The Republican congressman also noted that the federal government lifted the crude oil export ban last December while Mexico's demand for natural gas from the United States has increased dramatically.
"It's a completely different environment than it was 20 years ago," Hurd told the Business Journal.
Hurd traveled last week to Mexico City, where he met with business and political leaders from both sides of the border. Trump and NAFTA were frequent topics of conversation, he said.
"I was surprised by the number of conversations where we could strengthen NAFTA," Hurd said. "Most of them were about energy."
Using the automobile sector as an example, Hurd noted that many cars are assembled in plants using parts and components made in all three NAFTA nations, meaning that the United States, Canada and Mexico manufacture goods together. Hurd said renegotiating NAFTA would mean creating a modern border for which a streamlined customs process enables goods and services to traverse the border more efficiently.
And with the Alamo City seen as the gateway to Mexico, Hurd said San Antonio and Texas could benefit greatly from a new NAFTA deal.
"We have an opportunity to be a force in the world," Hurd said.
While some critics have compared Trump's campaign rhetoric about NAFTA to Brexit, Hurd said renegotiating the trilateral trade deal should be viewed as either NAFTA 2.0, a reboot, a redux or a reimagining.
"The media has made it more scary than it actually is," Hurd told the Business Journal.
Under the U.S. Constitution, trade deals are negotiated by the president and must confirmed by Congress and then signed into law. Trade deals can only be undone by a law that has been passed by Congress and signed by the president. With Trump to be sworn into office on Jan. 20. Hurd said that Trump's choices for U.S. Trade Representative, Secretary of State and Secretary of Commerce will be crucial to NAFTA's future.
"We gotta wait until all the right people are in place," Hurd said.