COMMENTARY: Why NAFTA is important to Texas


You have heard a lot of talk about the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) lately. There are those who want to eliminate it, those who want to leave it alone and those who want to change it in one way or the other.

After almost a quarter-century, I think the time is right to take another look at NAFTA. After all, think about how the world has changed in the last 23 years. Most of us now have the world in our pocket, carrying a smartphone that is capable of worldwide communications in many forms. That phone also brings us information from every corner of the globe. We are truly all connected.

Yes, the internet was out there when NAFTA first was signed, but it certainly wasn’t the economic driver that it is today. If you had a mobile phone 23 years ago, the only thing it did was make phone calls. There was no Google, YouTube, Facebook or Twitter. Cameras still used film and Sony had just released the first Playstation.

Although many things have changed over the years, the need for free trade and having strong working relationships with Mexico and Canada have not. In fact, the argument could be made that we need these partners now more than ever.

According to the International Trade Administration, Texas exported over $232 billion of goods and services in 2016; almost $93 billion was to Mexico, by far Texas’ largest trading partner. Canada is Texas’ second-largest trading partner. Texas exported almost $20 billion to Canada in 2016. In 2014, over 41,000 Texas companies exported goods from a Texas address. The numbers show that thousands of jobs and paychecks depend on this business in Texas and that every major metropolitan area in Texas is doing a thriving trade business, led by Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, El Paso and San Antonio.

The question is: What should we do to strengthen these ties, yet still make sure U.S. companies and workers are treated fairly? We owe it to our Texas businesses and our people to answer that question. That is why the Texas Association of Business and our partners, both north and south of the border, are looking for that solution.

TAB has formed the Texas/Mexico Trade Coalition to make sure Texas businesses are heard and that the Trump Administration has a full awareness of the historic relationship that has grown between Texas and Mexico. We want the Texas/Mexico Trade Coalition to gather information from our business members, state and federal office holders and Mexican business leaders and elected officials. That information will be gathered and can be used as NAFTA is recrafted, as President Donald Trump last week promised his administration would do.

One exciting fact for Texas is that the Mexican economy is continuing to grow. Mexico already has the No. 11 economy in the world, and there are projections that by 2030 Mexico’s economy will surpass Germany’s economy. Increasing trade will mean more jobs and paychecks for not only Texas, but also the entire country. This is not an economic powerhouse that we should ignore.

We can’t assume that an economy that big does not have other options as far as trading partners. There’s nothing stopping Mexico from taking their business elsewhere — and limiting our trade relationship with them will certainly lead to that happening. Mexico already has 10 free trade agreements with 45 countries.

I invite you to check out our website,, and join us. Make sure your company’s voice is heard as we work on the next generation of NAFTA jobs.