San Antonio reps hope to host signing ceremony for USMCA - the new NAFTA
Three Texas congressmen are asking President Donald Trump and his Mexican and Canadian counterparts to sign the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement in San Antonio — the same place where its 25-year-old predecessor was inked.
The Alamo City took the spotlight when the final draft of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, was initialed here on Oct. 7, 1992. A commemorative plaque in what is now a courtyard of the Marriott Plaza San Antonio marks the site of the ceremony that featured President George H.W. Bush, Mexican President Carlos Salinas andCanadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, as well as an international throng of reporters.
The U.S. House of Representatives approved the controversial pact in a 234-200 vote Nov. 17, 1993. It took effect Jan. 1, 1994.
“Given the prominent role that the city of San Antonio played in the enactment into force of the original agreement, it is our understanding that the city would be honored to host a signing of the new pact,” U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, Will Hurd, R-Helotes, and Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, wrote Tuesday. “It is our hope that you will consider affirming USMCA in the same state where the trade relationship was officially brought into existence.”
The letter was addressed to Trump, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who was San Antonio’s mayor during the signing of the original treaty, chimed in later in the day with a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
“Considering our historic ties to free trade between the United States, Mexico and Canada, I join Mayor Ron Nirenberg in extending an invitation to host President Trump, President Peña Nieto and Prime Minister Trudeau for the signing of the updated agreement,” Wolff wrote.
Trump campaigned vigorously against NAFTA, a pact he said encouraged companies to offshore jobs and contributed to U.S. trade deficits with both NAFTA partners. The fate of the agreement was in limbo for more than a year amid heated rounds of negotiations over everything from wage minimums and auto part sourcing to the amount of dairy U.S. producers could sell in Canada.
South Texas leaders on both sides of the aisle have been outspoken about how the trade pact fueled the economic growth of the Texas-Mexico border region.
U.S. trade with Canada and Mexico under NAFTA rose to $1.3 trillion annually, supporting 14 million American jobs, the congressmen noted in their letter. U.S. agricultural exports to both Canada and Mexico quadrupled, from $8.9 billion in 1993 to $38.1 billion in 2016.
The leaders were somewhat relieved when the Trump administration announced a deal with Mexico on Aug. 27, meeting a deadline to have it approved before income Mexican President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador takes office. But it was doubtful that an agreement without Canada would fly with congressional representatives in northern states. After a flurry of last-minute talks, Canada on Sept. 30 agreed to join in.
The pact still has to be ratified by the governments of all three countries, and it’s unclear what would happen if the majority of one or both U.S. chambers of Congress swings Democrat after the midterm elections.
Back in June 1990, when Bush and Salinas issued a statement suggesting a trilateral agreement, local leaders set out to claim San Antonio as “NAFTA City.”
The idea of a three-nation treaty had great appeal to San Antonio. Trade would shift to a north-south axis, putting San Antonio geographically in the center of an expanding stream of commerce.