SAN ANTONIO – The location where the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed in 1992 was the setting Monday for a U.S. Senate field hearing on the current NAFTA re-negotiations.
Held at what is now the Marriott Plaza Hotel, the meeting was led by U.S. Senator John Cornyn, chair of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness.
Cornyn heard testimony from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and stakeholders including the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the Border Trade Alliance, the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, the Texas Association of Business, the Texas Farm Bureau and the Texas Oil and Gas Association.
Based on their testimony, they shared the same concern over the rocky negotiations leading to further uncertainty already fueled by political rhetoric.
“Certainty is what the business community needs, absolutely,” said Paola Avila, chair of the Border Trade Alliance. “We don’t have that. No one knows what will happen.”
Richard Perez, CEO and president of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, said, “The uncertainty over the renegotiations has already had a chilling effect on growth and investment in the region.”
"It’s putting our existing record of prosperity in doubt,” Perez said.
Avila said all stakeholders have their own concerns, but consumers overall could be affected by any change in the agreement that could increase the cost of production or distribution.
“So we can be seeing as consumers, prices skyrocket,” Avila said.
Added Javier Roman, of San Antonio, whose business interests include assisting U.S. companies wanting to invest in Mexico: “We have to be very careful with what we’re doing.”
He said over a quarter of Mexico’s jobs are free trade-related. He said the loss of thousands of jobs “in the first year and a half is a disaster.”
Roman said he predicts it could result in an increase in illegal immigration.
“They need to provide for their families. They need to do something,” Roman said.
He also said a devaluation of the peso would mean Mexican citizens buying fewer American goods.
Compounding the situation, said Roman and Avila, is that both Mexico and Canada have upcoming federal elections.
Cornyn said if President Donald Trump tries to unilaterally terminate the Free Trade Agreement, he predicts litigation will try to stop it.
He said the U.S. Trade Promotion Authority requires Congress ratify the agreement.
NAFTA will be modernized “because the consequences of failure are going to be really bad for the three countries. I really don’t see failure as an option,” the senator said.