Soapbox

What America has to lose by killing NAFTA

Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, left, Mexico’s Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal, center, and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer shake hands after a press conference on the second round of NAFTA renegotiations in Mexico City on Sept. 5.
Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, left, Mexico’s Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal, center, and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer shake hands after a press conference on the second round of NAFTA renegotiations in Mexico City on Sept. 5. AP

With the conclusion of the second round of negotiations to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement in Mexico City earlier this month, it is time to consider what will happen if President Donald Trump makes good on his threats to withdraw from the trailblazing trade pact with Canada and Mexico.

 
Opinion

The United States has much to lose by alienating Mexico. It needs an able and focused partner to stem the flow of drugs across the border and a consumer base to buy American goods and crops such as corn, beans and wheat.

The two economies are highly integrated. Mexico relies greatly on the U.S. market for exports, supplying low-cost goods, including televisions and drones. Mexico also depends on the U.S. for parts, technology, foreign exchange and direct investment.

Also at risk is security cooperation. Intelligence sharing will be a thing of the past. Drug cartel leaders have been extradited to the U.S., but that process would no longer be as smooth.

An end to NAFTA will also injure Mexico, killing jobs and making the illicit drug industry more attractive for those who are out of work. U.S. aid under the Mérida Initiative, some of which may be diverted to help pay for the wall along the border, remains critical for Mexico to win its war on drugs.

If NAFTA dies and if Dreamers are deported, the U.S. can forget about continued Mexican assistance with slowing down migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, many of them children.

With the third set of NAFTA negotiations scheduled to begin in Ottawa on Sept. 23, Mexico must make contingency plans for a world without it. The negotiations – with 25 different working groups – have a goal of concluding a new deal by the end of the year. But don’t hold your breath.

James Cooper, who has consulted for the U.S. State Department on the Mérida Initiative, is a professor at California Western School of Law in San Diego. He can be contacted at jcooper@cwsl.edu.

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