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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Isakson Urges Progress on North American Free Trade Agreement Negotiations

Questions trade experts at Senate hearing, sends letter to Trump

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., highlighted the long-term economic success of the deep ties between the United States, Canada and Mexico on Tuesday as negotiations continue on modernizing North American Free Trade Agreement, known as NAFTA. In the hearing and in a letter sent to the president yesterday, Isakson highlighted the agreement’s benefits to Georgia and the United States and outlined possible improvements to the agreement, urging good faith by all parties during negotiations.   

Isakson questioned a panel of trade experts during a hearing of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on Tuesday focused on this critical economic relationship between the United States, Canada and Mexico. He also sent a letter to President Trump regarding the benefits of the agreement, noting that improvements will help further fuel economic growth in the United States.

During the committee hearing, Isakson stated that when the United States is engaged in trade agreements, it is beneficial to our long-term economic success. These agreements are important for Georgia, which boasts the ports of Savannah and Brunswick and has been named the number one state in which to do business five years in a row. 

In 2016, Georgia exported $3.5 billion in goods and services to Mexico and $5.8 billion to Canada. According to Business Roundtable, in 2014 nearly 400,000 Georgia jobs were supported by U.S. trade, both exports and imports, with Canada and Mexico.

“I think if we disengaged from the marketplace, or we go from the sidelines to the bleachers, we’re going to watch things happen to us, rather than be a part of making things happen,” said Isakson during Tuesday’s hearing.

Isakson highlighted that Georgia and the United States have seen success in challenging unfair trade practices by other countries such as China. Panelists Brian Mulroney, former prime minister of Canada, Earl Anthony “Tony” Wayne, former U.S. ambassador, and Jaime Serra Puche, former secretary of commerce and industry of Mexico, each testified and responded to Isakson during the hearing.

After sharing his interest in ensuring a continued commitment to the agreement, Isakson asked the panelists to outline how they would create an agreement going forward that can be flexible enough to make needed modernizations for today and keep up with future developments.

“Is there something we can put in the new agreement that would require modernization as the time goes by?” Isakson asked.

Mulroney responded that, “The fundamentals are absolutely strong. How can they be otherwise?…Everybody’s competing with the European Union, with big trade blocks in China and southeast Asia, and we have merged, fortunately, into a major trading power here ourselves here in North America, so when we take on the competition, we come from a rules-based organization… that is the most prosperous in the world, and we should take advantage of that cohesion.” Mulroney further warned of his concerns of “making perfection the enemy of the good,” in hampering progress in negotiations.

Further, in a letter to President Trump led by U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and signed by Isakson and 34 other senators on Tuesday, they wrote, “NAFTA has driven U.S. trade with Canada and Mexico to approximately $1.3 trillion annually. Whether manufacturers, farmers, or insurance providers, a wide range of industries in the U.S. have benefitted from this agreement and American consumers are reaping those benefits, too.”

“NAFTA supports 14 million jobs, representing thousands of jobs in each of the 50 states,” the letter continued. “Despite all of its benefits, however, we can do better and there are opportunities to improve the agreement. Modernizing NAFTA to increase market access, expand energy exports to maximize domestic energy production and including provisions on intellectual property and e-commerce will make this agreement even more beneficial to the United States.”