Trade with Mexico benefits people across the United States. This is especially true if you live in Southern Arizona.
Maybe you work in produce sales, shipping or with a major local employer like Walmart or Home Depot. Perhaps you’re a member of the federal workforce as part of Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Food and Drug Administration.
The simple fact is free trade is a vital driver of Arizona’s economy. Hundreds of Arizona industries and countless jobs are tied to international trade. That means any changes to trade policies, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, affect us all.
NAFTA-related trade employs about 236,000 Arizonans statewide, including thousands of people across Santa Cruz, Pima, and Cochise counties. In addition to northbound trade, nearly half of our state’s exports go to Mexico and Canada, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. That includes 96 percent of metals and ores and 91 percent of engines and turbines manufactured here.
Our state’s total exports to those two countries alone average $10 billion each year.
Leading up to the NAFTA negotiations, U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer said, “I’ve always thought that communities along our borders have a particular equity in this agreement. In many cases their lives, businesses, and families are very much on both sides of the dividing line. They, too, are hardworking men and women trying to raise families and accumulate wealth. We must keep their interests paramount.”
I absolutely agree that our interests must be paramount in these negotiations. The countless families across Santa Cruz County and Southern Arizona are depending on robust trade with our neighbors in Canada and Mexico.
Modernizing NAFTA is an opportunity to strengthen the agreement to the benefit of all three countries, but any actions that implement barriers to free trade or impose tariffs on goods and products would only increase costs for American consumers, eliminate U.S. jobs, and hurt our economy.
As a rural county that already faces economic challenges, we cannot afford a blow to our economy and our job base. Taking away the jobs directly related to NAFTA would increase unemployment and reduce economic opportunity across Southern Arizona. This would not only harm companies directly involved in international trade but also the service sector and other industries that benefit from the wages paid by jobs tied to trade.
The NAFTA renegotiations impact each and every one of us as Americans and as Arizonans. You can learn more about how NAFTA impacts you by visiting TradeLeadershipCoalition.org. We all need to take action by writing our elected representatives in Washington and spreading the word on social media. Use #NAFTA4AZ to show the world and our elected representatives what NAFTA means to Southern Arizona and communities like ours.
NAFTA has been a good thing for Southern Arizona. Preserving our economic strength is going to require every single one of us working together.