EconomyHot Sheet

Colorado business group urges Trump to deal fairly and wisely on NAFTA

Author: Joey Bunch - April 26, 2018 - Updated: April 25, 2018

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NAFTACanada’s chief NAFTA negotiator Steve Verheul talks to reporters following a roundtable with labour leaders in Ottawa last month. (Photo by Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via the AP)

A group of Colorado business leaders are urging President Trump to ease up on tariffs and extend exemptions to U.S partners in the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“Our markets need to be made secure, and our North American allies are a part of the solution,” Colorado Business Leaders for NAFTA said in the statement issued Wednesday.

The directive to the president is signed by the group’s co-chairs, Karen Gerwitz, president and CEO of  the World Trade Center Denver, and Jeff Wasden, president of the Colorado Business Roundtable.

The statement “condemns” using the tariffs in NAFTA renegotiations with Canada and Mexico.

Trump made renegotiating trade deals central to his campaign.

“The U.S. Administration is not wrong that bad faith actors have sought to undermine U.S. metals manufacturing, dumping their product into our markets at unfair rates to drive competitors out of business,” the Colorado group states. “However, Canada and Mexico have not been bad actors.”

Trump announced the U.S. tariffs, mostly aimed at China, in March but suspended them for Canada and Mexico until May 1, because of the NAFTA talks.

Trump has been a critic of NAFTA, saying it hurts American workers, and he has sought to make it part of his plan to deal with immigration. He has threatened to pull the U.S. out of the deal entirely if he is not pleased with the renegotiation.

NAFTA went into effect in 1994 to most tariffs and other barriers to encourage trade and investments between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Here is the full text of the statement:

The Colorado Business Leaders for NAFTA (CBL4NAFTA) strongly encourage President Donald J. Trump, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and other Administration officials to extend the steel and aluminum exemptions placed on our neighbors and NAFTA partners, Canada and Mexico, and make them permanent.

The U.S. Administration is not wrong that bad faith actors have sought to undermine U.S. metals manufacturing, dumping their product into our markets at unfair rates to drive competitors out of business. However, Canada and Mexico have not been bad actors. Indeed, U.S. domestic manufacturing markets are deeply entwined with those of our North American partners. For example: American steelworkers share the same union representation with their Canadian counterparts, and the majority of steel firms have long-established cross-border operations that employ thousands. Moreover, thanks to rigorous monitoring about which products may enter their borders, neither Canada nor Mexico may be used as a “back door” for illegally dumped materials to enter into the United States.

Our markets need to be made secure, and our North American allies are a part of the solution.

CBL4NAFTA condemns any attempt by the Administration or other influencers to use tariffs as a leveraging tool in NAFTA renegotiations, as has been speculated in the media. These two issues are separate. Neither Canada nor Mexico presents a national security threat – as defined under Section 232 – to the United States. Indeed, as a NORAD and NATO partner, Canada would be considered America’s strongest and most loyal ally, having stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the U.S. in every major conflict since World War One.

CBL4NAFTA supports any effort that will bring jobs and economic prosperity to American workers. It is our belief that a unified and outward-facing North American bloc is the best way to ensure the prosperity for our people, our businesses, and our communities – in Colorado and across the continent – both now and into the future.

The United States should be clear in word and deed: America First does not mean America Alone. Our NAFTA partners are our allies as we look to make the global marketplace a more fair and robust system where industry can compete. Making these tariff exemptions permanent would be a clear signal to the world that the United States remains open for business.

Colorado Business Leaders for NAFTA

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.