SAN ANTONIO - A critical hearing was held in downtown San Antonio Monday focusing on the future of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Proponents say it works, but critics disagree.
Collectively, stakeholders believe the treaty needs an update; A NAFTA 2.0.
U.S. Senator John Cornyn from Texas led the Congressional hearing inside the Marriott Plaza Monday, 24 years after NAFTA was signed.
He also believes in a modernized NAFTA, one that will level the playing field.
The North American Free Trade Agreement between Canada, Mexico, and the United States creates jobs, keeps prices lower for consumers and creates better markets for our energy and agricultural products.
"When people say there are winners and losers in NAFTA, I'm wondering where those losers are," said Cornyn. "I believe NAFTA is working. Certainly, it's working for Texas."
Cornyn, chairman of the Senate Finance Subcommittee, has jurisdiction over these trade agreements.
This morning, he listened to stakeholders talk about what changes, if any, NAFTA needs.
"Increased resources for customs modernization and improved infrastructure at the border will reduce delays in border crossings, benefiting consumers by minimizing food spoilage and transportation costs," said Richard Perez, President & CEO of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce.
In 2015, San Antonio service companies exported a total of $10.7 billion.
Supporters of a modernized NAFTA want the agreement to have more fair labor and environmental standards and more opportunities for America in the world of digital trade.
New plants for automobiles and growth within the energy sector employed millions, but critics say the real "losers" in NAFTA are the workers.
"A lot of the things that we really want to make sure happen is that the workers will get paid fairly," said Montserrat Garibay, Secretary-Treasurer of the Texas AFL-CIO. "If a worker gets paid in one month an hour of what they get paid here in the U.S., that's unacceptable."
"We were told that it was going to create high-paying jobs on both sides of the border. The fact is now, a single government program has verified that there has been close to 1 million manufacturing jobs lost to Mexico," said Bob Cash, Director of the Texas Fair Trade Coalition.
Cash says since NAFTA started, wages in Mexico have dropped an average of 9%.
"Summer before last, when Mexican workers went on strike, it turns out they were being paid less than average Chinese factory wages," said Cash. "The old NAFTA was a great success for the economic elites, for the 1% of Canada, Mexico, and the U.S., but workers got the short end of the stick in all three
U.S. trade representatives revealed in the hearing that the U.S. is in a $500 billion trade deficit with Mexico and a $100 billion deficit with Canada, which accumulated within the last decade. They say President Trump is concerned that the enormous deficits don't represent the type of fair and reciprocal the relationship that should exist when the U.S. gives special privileges to another country.
Cornyn doesn't see failure as an option. If the U.S. withdraws from NAFTA, 1 million jobs are at risk in Texas.
President Trump has said if the U.S. can't renegotiate a trade deal, it will be terminated.
"I'm hoping any talk of withdrawal is maybe just a negotiating technique or rhetoric because I do believe it needs to be modernized," said Cornyn.
In order for any renegotiated provisions of NAFTA to go into effect, they will first have to be approved by US Congress.
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