Mexican auto industry officials are lining up their arguments to defend the North American Free Trade Agreement against President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign promise to renegotiate the pact or throw it out altogether.
The officials, armed with data and economic studies, have boiled their arguments down to a simple message: The U.S. is much better off with the 1994 trade deal than without it. In an era of global competition, they say, Mexico complements the U.S. and Canada more than it competes with them.
Although nervous about eventual talks between Mexico and the Trump administration, the industry leaders say they have a winning argument since the pact has woven trilateral ties that cannot be torn apart without major damage to the North American auto industry.
That warning may appeal to Trump’s instincts as a businessman who knows his way around the world, and as a politician who wants to deliver on his promise to protect American manufacturing jobs.
“Mr. Trump has said that he is going to be the president that promotes jobs, and in order to have jobs you have to be competitive,” Eduardo Solis, president of the Mexican Automotive Industry Association, said last week at an industry gathering here. “The North American region has to be analyzed vs. the other regions of the world, not Mexico vs. the United States.”
Solis, a former government trade negotiator, warns against assuming the worst-case scenario from Trump. “The relationship is so strong among the industries in the three countries,” he said. “We have to use that as a starting point and not what happens if the United States leaves NAFTA.”