Guest Column

Maintaining NAFTA important to future of GR, West Michigan

March 2, 2018
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For more than 24 years, NAFTA has been producing results for the U.S., for Michigan and our community. That’s why The Right Place and the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce believe strongly that the U.S. should not walk away from the NAFTA partnership but focus on making it stronger, more flexible and more modern.

NAFTA is a major part of why Michigan has continued to build its reputation as a world-class player in the auto sector. The nearly $300 billion that Canadian and Mexican partners have invested in U.S. auto manufacturing is in large part due to the elimination of trade barriers and a stable regulatory framework provided under NAFTA. West Michigan benefits immensely when Michigan’s auto sector is strong, and NAFTA helps build the foundation for growth in this sector.

As important to Michigan and West Michigan is the agricultural and food processing sector. Many of our agricultural products and food products are exported. Agriculture is Michigan’s second largest industry and has continued to thrive because of our membership in NAFTA.

The spillover effects of Michigan’s trade portfolio with Canada and Mexico have created new opportunities and benefits for all of Michigan. By eliminating trade barriers, establishing a stable regulatory framework and providing important safeguards for resolving disputes, NAFTA has created a secure business environment for businesses of all sizes.

The Trump administration has expressed a commitment to reducing regulations and lowering the costs of doing business. This is exactly what NAFTA has been accomplishing for 24 years. Without NAFTA, American businesses would not only face new barriers when it comes to trading with North American partners, but the lack of access to an integrated supply chain would raise the cost of doing business. Losing access to free trade — especially for our auto sector that depends on inexpensive component parts — will cost jobs and opportunities. The same holds true for our agricultural and food processing companies.

The West Michigan business community fears the U.S. could be walking away from an important business partnership in NAFTA. We understand after 24 years, the way we do business has changed and that NAFTA needs to be revisited, modernized and updated to meet the changing needs of all partners.

For the sake of the businesses and workers who depend on exporting across the country and in our region, we are calling on the Trump administration and our federal representatives not to abandon this important trade agreement that means so much to our community.

Because of NAFTA:

Birgit Klohs is president and CEO of The Right Place Inc., and Rick Baker is president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.

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