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Business Leaders, Lobby Groups Rally to Strengthen NAFTA

Posted June 07, 2017

Seeking to advance the interests of businesses in renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce has joined with its counterparts in the United States and Mexico to form a new entity called the North American Economic Alliance.

In a statement released today, Perrin Beatty, Thomas J. Donohue and Juan Pablo Castañón, the heads of the national business lobbying groups say the alliance “will serve as a platform for the three-private sector organizations to speak with one voice to the U.S., Canadian, and Mexican governments about the most effective way to enhance our competitiveness and our capacity to create jobs in North America.”

Engaging with our vast networks across all three countries, we will aim to remind our leaders what is at stake and help them do what is best for our economies and our peoples,” the executives jointly said. “Together, our first order of business will be to engage meaningfully in the debate over NAFTA’s future.

Stating they are in agreement that their "first goal must be to protect the tens of millions of jobs and revenues that the pact supports in all three countries—and to drive even more growth and competitiveness across the hemisphere," the new alliance will be pressing government leaders to adhere to the following key principles:

One, any effort to update NAFTA must not undermine the strong foundation that already exists. Put simply, we must “do no harm.” We should not disrupt the $1.3 trillion in annual trade that crosses our borders.

Two, an updated deal must remain trilateral. For more than two decades, companies have relied on the existing trilateral NAFTA framework as a baseline for our cooperation. Creating divergent rules would undermine our competitiveness by raising costs for businesses and disrupting existing trade flows—as well as the jobs that depend on them.

Three, our leaders must understand that modernization should mean updating NAFTA while retaining the current benefits.

Four, we must act swiftly. Business thrives when the future is clear and apparent risks can be addressed, so lingering uncertainty about the future of North American trade will only suppress economic growth in all three countries.

Fifth, it is vital that all three governments keep consulting with the private sector during the negotiation process. With input and involvement from the business communities in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, the process will be more predictable, and it will be easier to build broad support across North America.

While the groups say they have been “encouraged” so far by statements made by officials from the three NAFTA countries ahead of the negotiations, they add that they “take nothing for granted.”

Meanwhile, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon and other top U.S. executives met today in Washington with their counterparts from Mexico and Canada to discuss the importance of modernizing NAFTA and further strengthening North American economic relations.  The event was hosted by the Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers of America’s leading companies, in partnership with the Business Council of Canada and the Consejo Mexicano de Negocios.

Following the meeting, the three organizations issued the following statement:

Business leaders across North America support negotiations to modernize and strengthen NAFTA and help make the North American marketplace even more vibrant and competitive. NAFTA drives significant economic growth and job creation in each of our countries. Hundreds of thousands of businesses in our three countries trade with one another, and millions of jobs are supported by trade in goods and services among our countries.

The global economy has changed dramatically since our respective governments negotiated NAFTA more than two decades ago. New industries and new challenges have emerged, including e-commerce, the digital economy and competition from state-owned companies. Negotiations to modernize and strengthen NAFTA provide a key opportunity to bring NAFTA into the 21st century so our companies and workers will be even more competitive in the future.

We urge our governments to preserve and build on NAFTA’s proven benefits for businesses, workers and consumers. Negotiators must take care not to erect new barriers to the $1.3 trillion in trade across our borders. Equally, they must avoid disrupting supply chains that enable our companies and workers to produce globally competitive goods and services.

Each of our organizations is fully committed to working with our respective governments and business communities to ensure the success of these negotiations to modernize and strengthen NAFTA.

“It is important that the private and public sector continue to engage closely to preserve, strengthen and modernize the economic benefits that North American trade has created for the United States, said Business Roundtable chairman Dimon.