AUSTIN — Texas’ largest business associations are forming a coalition to protect and foster trade opportunities between the United States and Mexico amid a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement spearheaded by the Trump administration.
The Texas-Mexico Trade Coalition will officially launch on Thursday and includes the Texas Association of Business, the Texas Business Leadership Council and the Borderplex Alliance. The alliance includes business operations on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.
“It is designed to inform Texas policymakers about how important bilateral trade with Mexico is to the state’s economy and to urge political leaders in the Lone Star State to actively engage in the process of the renegotiation and modernizing and strengthening of NAFTA,” said Jon Barela, CEO of the Borderplex Alliance, a regional economic development organization for El Paso, Southern New Mexico and northern Mexico.
“There have been some efforts (to collaborate) here and there, but this is unique in the sense that this coalition is and does represent businesses large and small throughout Texas who all recognize the value of the bilateral economic relationship and see it as an opportunity to create even more jobs in Texas and throughout our region,” Barela said.
President Donald Trump pledged to renegotiate NAFTA early in his presidency and has threatened to withdraw entirely from the pact if Mexico and Canada don’t agree to make changes that give “American workers a fair deal.”
In May, the Trump administration officially informed Congress of its intent to renegotiate, starting the clock on a 90-day period of consultation with lawmakers and interested parties over how to revise the agreement. Trump, who once called NAFTA “a disaster,” has asked that the deal protect factory workers in the U.S. and be revised to reflect modern technologies.
Members of the Texas-Mexico Trade Coalition are urging lawmakers to protect the “deep economic ties” between Texas and Mexico and to modernize the agreement to include new industry and technologies.
“The relationship benefits both countries economically, and we want it to continue to do so,” Jeff Moseley, CEO of the Texas Association of Business, said in a statement. “Our goal is to make sure that our voices are heard in any conversations that might impact that relationship and to provide real data from Texas and Mexico businesses to guide discussions at all levels of government.”
In 2016, the United States exported about $262 billion in goods and services to Mexico — $93 billion of which came from Texas. Trade with Mexico supported about 1.2 million U.S. jobs in 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Trade with Canada supported about 1.6 million jobs.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said during an event in El Paso earlier this month that revamping the trade agreement will have a positive economic impact on Texas.
“NAFTA is essential to our economic prosperity. If after 24 years it needs a tuneup, no one should be surprised,” he said.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, also supports the NAFTA renegotiation and said opening Mexico’s energy resources to American should be a priority as it could “produce thousands of high-paying jobs in Mexico and in Texas.”