Sen. Shaheen promotes renegotiating NAFTA
By Edith Tucker
The Berlin Sun
WHITEFIELD — U.S. Sen.Jeanne Shaheen emphasized the importance of NAFTA — the North American Free Trade Agreement — to its three signatories — Canada, Mexico and the United States — and how critical its successful renegotiation is to this state and nation.
Shaheen, who serves on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and on the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, gave a short but heartfelt speech to wrap up Friday’s all-day N.H.-Canada Business Development Forum held at the Mountain View Grand.
“We share the longest peaceful international border with Canada,” the senior senator said. The 58 miles between the New Hampshire and Quebec border makes us the “best of neighbors and trading partners,” on which some 40,000 New Hampshire jobs depend. “The scale of trade is staggering,” she said. “This trade relationship did not just happen but required hard work. NAFTA has resulted in deeply integrated North American manufacturing.”
Shaheen cautioned against the United States negotiating team taking a unilateral approach to trade talks and hoped that neither ultimatums nor threats would be issued. Treaty team members must be willing to understand the interests and real concerns of its North American trading partners, she said. Nor does she favor having a five-year sunset clause included in an updated NAFTA treaty, fearing that such a “window of certainty” would be too short, given the size of investments that businesses must often make when working across borders.
A key aspect of NAFTA that must be preserved, the senator said, is ensuring the continued open flow of skilled professionals and technology technicians across borders. These workers are not part of the immigration scene but are necessary to provide needed services for sophisticated products.
“Speak up” urged Shaheen, asking both state elected and appointed officials plus business leaders to let the Trump Administration and Congress know that keeping and updating NAFTA is very important to both large and small businesses in New Hampshire and New England. “You have credibility,” she said. “On average $2 billion in goods and services cross the U.S.-Canada border every day.”
The senator, like many of the day’s speakers, emphasized the cultural values that the U.S. and Canada share. About a third of New Hampshire’s residents have ancestors who came from Canada.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pointed out, Shaheen said, that Canadian and U.S. citizens are “siblings descended from the same mother country — the same parents: Canada was the obedient child, and you were the rebellious child.”
The United States began bilateral trade negotiations with Canada more than 30 years ago, resulting in the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement, which went into effect on Jan. 1, 1989. In 1991, bilateral talks began with Mexico, which Canada joined. Then NAFTA followed, taking effect on Jan. 1, 1994. Tariffs were eliminated progressively and all duties and quantitative restrictions, with the exception of some agricultural products traded with Canada, were eliminated by 2008.