Top Wisconsin manufacturing and agriculture leaders see the recently announced trade agreement with Mexico as a positive for businesses in the state.
President Trump announced yesterday a tentative new trade deal with Mexico as he’s “terminating” the North American Free Trade Agreement, marking a potential end to the 24-year deal between the United States and Wisconsin’s two largest trading partners.
The new “U.S.-Mexico Trade Agreement” is a bilateral trade agreement, but could also involve Canada. Trump threatened yesterday to slap automotive tariffs on Canada if it doesn’t agree to the deal.
“We applaud President Trump for his leadership,” said Kurt Bauer, president and CEO of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. “It is our hope that this will bring Canada back to the table and lead to more open and fair trade between our three countries.”
Trump says negotiations will begin shortly to reach some sort of agreement with Canada. He left the door open on whether any potential Canada deal would be wrapped into the agreement announced yesterday.
“We’ll give them a chance to probably have a seperate deal,” he said. “We could have a seperate deal, or we could put it into this deal.”
Though a deal with Canada is still up in the air, Wisconsin Farm Bureau President Jim Holte says the Mexican trade deal is “welcomed with open arms from farmers, because Mexico is a large agricultural trading partner.”
“Farmers have been waiting for some movement on trade negotiations,” Holte said. “We hope to see the same initiative taken with other countries soon as we continue to advocate for new markets and further expand existing markets.”
Negotiations surrounding NAFTA had been ongoing since last year, following Trump’s repeated insistence on the campaign trail that it was “the worst trade deal” in U.S. history. Any new trade deal would require congressional approval.
A report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in late 2017 found Wisconsin would be the second-hardest hit out of U.S. states if the country were to pull out of NAFTA entirely. That study predicted 249,000 jobs would be at risk. Manufacturing goods account for over 80 percent of all Wisconsin exports, and about 46 percent of all Wisconsin exports are bound for Canada and Mexico.
“As far as Canada is concerned, we haven’t started with Canada yet; we wanted to do Mexico and see if that was possible to do,” Trump said. “We’ll start negotiations shortly. I’ll be calling the Prime Minister (Trudeau) very soon, and we’ll start negotiation. If they’d like to negotiate fairly, we’ll do that.”