ATA supports NAFTA adjustments, not cancelling of trade deal

We need NAFTA. That was the general consensus from Bob Costello and Derek Leathers on Sunday during a general industry update session at the American Trucking Associations’ MCE 2017 conference in Orlando. While Leathers, CEO of Werner Enterprises, acknowledged that the North American Free Trade Agreement has some problems, he doesn’t believe it should be scrapped entirely.

“Our industry would be kidding itself if we didn’t [support] strong trade,” Leathers said, noting that sometimes political rhetoric creates a “messy” situation. “I don’t think we need to apologize for wanting to talk about [fixing] NAFTA, but I don’t think we should throw it out either.”

Costello added some context on how much the trucking industry has benefitted from NAFTA trade. Seventy-one percent of all surface trade value with Canada and 82% of surface trade value with Mexico is hauled by trucks, he said. There are 12 million truck border crossings per year in the U.S. with Laredo, Texas, seeing close to 6,000 per day.

NAFTA was went into effect on Jan. 1, 1994. From 1994 to 2000, the U.S. added 500,000 manufacturing jobs, Costello said. When China joined the World Trade Organization in 2000, the U.S. lost 3.9 million manufacturing jobs through 2007.

“I don’t think that’s a coincidence,” Costello said, adding that he “thinks Mexico gets a bad rap.”

Half of all manufacturing jobs in the U.S. today are supported by NAFTA trade, he said, with trade contributing to 14 million U.S. jobs overall.

“Cross-border trade supports over 46,000 U.S. trucking jobs, including 31,000 U.S. truck drivers, and generates $6.5 billion in revenue for our industry annually,” said Costello in a statement released Monday. “As the U.S. renegotiates this agreement with Canada and Mexico, we urge them to keep the tremendous benefits to our economy and our industry in mind.”

ATA, along with its foreign counterparts the Canadian Trucking Alliance and Camara Nacional del Autotransporte de Carga (CANACAR) issued a joint statement on Monday in support of NAFTA.

“The trucking industries in Canada, Mexico, and the United States have all benefited significantly from NAFTA and we, the national trucking associations from all three countries, urge negotiators to update the trade agreement in a manner that continues to benefit trade,” the statement reads in part. “We strongly encourage our governments to update NAFTA to keep North America competitive internationally. In this endeavor, making border crossings and rules governing international commercial transportation more efficient is a crucial element that will only help our industries make North America stronger.”

“Trucking and trade are synonymous,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “In the more than two decades since NAFTA was enacted, we have seen strong growth in trade – the majority of which is moved by truck – between the United States, Mexico and Canada. It is vital to the health of our industry and our economy that we maintain and strengthen these relationships.” 

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight covers general transportation news and leads the editorial team as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler.