New NAFTA helps SE Texas and state
The new treaty that would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement is good for Southeast Texas because of the fourth word in that title — trade, a willing transaction between buyer and seller that can benefit both parties. The public ports and refineries in this region depend heavily on trade — usually raw materials coming in and finished products going out, although lately domestic crude oil exports have been added to the mix.
The more commerce that our refineries and ports engage in, the more jobs and tax revenues they produce. Without robust foreign trade, our region would have fewer paychecks and taxes. It’s that basic.
President Trump deserves credit for pushing to update NAFTA with what is being called USMCA — the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Plenty of skeptics said it couldn’t be done — or didn’t need to be done. Trump has proved them wrong, though most analysts say the new treaty is similar to the old one, with various pluses and minuses that would be inherent in any large, complex agreement.
Yet the upgrade also refutes a common complaint of Trump’s — that trade is bad and inherently favors foreign nations. That’s old-fashioned and too negative. The modern world depends on trade, and if the United States withdraws from this arena it will simply abdicate more power to rising economies like China, which trade aggressively.
The United States, Mexico and Canada are natural trading partners — three large nations that make up an entire continent. Texas, which has the longest border with Mexico than any state, has extensive commerce with Mexico and enjoys a trade surplus. The stronger the Mexican economy, the less immigration from that country into ours by people who simply want decent jobs.
While Mexico is our state’s biggest trading partner, Canada is No. 2. And if the Keystone XL pipeline is completed as planned, more Canadian oil will end up right here on the Gulf coast, at refineries in Houston and Port Arthur. Even now, Canada sends 3.3 million barrels of oil per day to U.S. refineries. Whether additional tar sands crude from Canada is exported from our ports or processed into gasoline sold to American consumers, our local economy benefits.
The new proposed treaty must still be approved by Congress and officials in Canada and Mexico too. Texas senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz have more influence in Washington than many of their colleagues. They should use their clout to make sure this treaty gets through the Senate, assuming of course that it is as positive as it appears. Our region, state and nation will benefit if they do.