Auto Industry to Washington Pols: Keep NAFTA in place

The auto industry weighed into the NAFTA fray Tuesday, with a strong and collective statement telling Washington not to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The statement came as part of a "Driving American Jobs" coalition made up of virtually all major automakers, trade associations, dealers and suppliers from the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association, as well as the American International Automobile Dealers Association.

“In 2016, automakers manufactured 12.2 million vehicles in the U.S., more than one million more vehicles than were manufactured in the country in the year before NAFTA took effect,” said the coalition website. “The auto sector was the leading exporter in the nation, shipping $137 billion in vehicles and parts to Mexico, Canada and the rest of the world. The sector invested $8 billion in U.S. plants and equipment and nearly $20 billion in R&D. In total, the U.S. auto industry currently supports more than 7 million American jobs.”

The group claims that ending NAFTA would put automotive jobs at risk, due to $1.2 trillion in annual trade between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The group also cites $9.5 billion in 2017 investment as an important reason to keep the trade agreement alive.

“American automakers are driving the revival of American manufacturing,” said Governor Matt Blunt, president of the American Automotive Policy Council (AAPC). “When you examine the data, there’s no question that NAFTA has helped advance the global competitiveness of the U.S. auto industry sector.” 

All that growth and advancement is under threat, after Trump Administration officials warned that it may withdraw from the 23-year-old agreement if changes weren’t made, including key adjustments to rules around automotive manufacturing.

During the last round of negotiations, officials demanded that 85 percent of a vehicle’s parts content come from North American sources, with 50 percent exclusively from the U.S. That’s an increase from the existing 62.5 percent and 30 percent ratios, one deemed impossible by auto industry experts, Canada and Mexico.

Some coalition officials were careful to endorse the possibility of a new and improved NAFTA agreement, most pointed to concerns around changing the delicate automotive content balance, interrupting the existing parts supply chain or compromising investment.  

The coalition’s campaign intends to raise awareness and drive the public to call and email elected officials. According to the New York Times, the “Driving American Jobs” campaign also coincides with a move by dozens of lobbyists (including automotive) on Capitol Hill, urging lawmakers to keep the NAFTA agreement in place. 

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