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NAFTA20 North America Summit, Remarks by Thomas J. Donohue President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Thursday, November 15, 2012 - 7:00pm

As Prepared for Delivery

San Antonio, Texas

Thank you very much and good morning everyone.

It’s an honor to be part of this distinguished panel with Jaime and John.

And it’s a pleasure to be in San Antonio to celebrate 20 years of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

I’d like to extend a special welcome to the staff and members of the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce who are here today.

They are a good Chamber partner and a driving force for economic growth and jobs in this area.

And I’d like to thank Mayor Castro and the entire city of San Antonio for their warm hospitality.

Let’s not forget why San Antonio was chosen as the place to sign NAFTA. It not only stands at the crossroads of North America, but no other city did more to help build support for NAFTA passage in Congress.

In the early 1990s, I was president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations and was very active in the NAFTA discussions.

I had a good relationship with DOT Secretary Andy Card and we had many conversations about what was needed for trucking.

ATA also established the North American Transportation Alliance so many industry sectors could work together to figure out how trucking could deal with a major increase in trade.

And during my entire time at the U.S. Chamber, I’ve been proud to be a vocal and consistent supporter of NAFTA.

As we assess the first two decades of the agreement we can only describe it as an unqualified success.

NAFTA propelled an explosion in trade, jobs, and growth and enhanced the competitiveness of all three countries.

Today the U.S. Chamber is releasing a report entitled NAFTA Triumphant which details the agreements’ many benefits.

A few numbers tell the story. Since NAFTA entered into force in 1994, trade with Canada and Mexico has more than tripled, reaching $1.2 trillion in 2011.

In fact, each day the United States conducts more than $3.2 billion in trade with its two closest neighbors.

Our study found that North American trade supports a net total of nearly 14 million U.S. jobs—and nearly 400,000 right here in Texas.

One of the biggest changes brought by NAFTA has been the integration of the North American market.

Today, all three countries make things together, using global value chains that cross national borders.

This approach leads to efficiencies that have proven vital to the global competitiveness of North American industry.

In short, NAFTA has supported millions of good jobs, raised standards of living, and made our industries more efficient and productive.

Communicating these successes loudly and clearly is an urgent task as critics are still calling for NAFTA to be renegotiated or scrapped altogether.

So what’s next for this extraordinary partnership?

We can’t simply rest on our laurels. In the years ahead, our countries need to build on the strong foundation we’ve created.

One area of focus should be to advance the integration of our markets to further rationalize our supply chains, increase efficiency, and better position North America in the global economy.

We need to advance regulatory cooperation, streamline our border, and reform immigration practices to ensure the free flow of products, people, capital, and ideas.

And we need to eliminate other non-tariff barriers that prevent us from realizing the full benefits of our partnership.

The American government and business community have worked closely with its counterparts in Mexico and Canada to address all of these issues. And we are making progress. Let’s keep it up.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement provides an important opportunity to move the ball forward.

Including Canada and Mexico in these negotiations was a smart thing to do. 

Given the level of integration in the North American market, it would be counterproductive for the United States to negotiate trade rules without the active participation of both Canada and Mexico.

By negotiating together, we can maximize the strength of the North American market.

The Chamber is encouraging all parties to negotiate the TPP agreement as quickly as possible. It would be a tremendous boost to our economies at a time when we badly need it.

But our most extraordinary opportunity is establishing North America as a 21st century energy hub.

North America is experiencing a renaissance in energy production of epic proportions.

Technological advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have opened up vast new reserves that were once thought economically unrecoverable even a few short years ago.

The potential in the United States alone is tremendous.

A new study commissioned by the Chamber’s Energy Institute has found that unconventional oil and natural gas development will be responsible for 1.3 million new jobs by 2020, and an additional 1.8 million jobs by 2035. 

This activity will generate more than $2.5 trillion in tax revenues during the next 23 years.

It will attract manufacturing back to the United States, boost exports, expand our tax base and revenues, and reduce our dependence on unfriendly or risky suppliers.

The boom in American energy production is happening right here in San Antonio. The Eagle Ford Play had a $25 billion dollar impact on the South Texas economy in 2011.
For all of these reasons and more, the Chamber is encouraging Congress and the administration to make greater American energy production a key part of a Big Deal on taxes and spending.

Every dollar in revenue generated from energy is a dollar we won’t have to cut from defense or entitlements, or raise in taxes.

And it’s why we’re promoting lower energy costs as a tremendous competitive advantage for our economy.

Turning to Canada, it has the third largest oil reserves in the world. Production from oil sands alone could rise from 1.4 million barrels per day in 2010 to 3.5 million by 2025.

When you add up the potential of all three countries, North America’s energy resources are truly staggering.

Having the resources in the ground is a good and fortunate place to start—it sure beats not having them at all!

But it is only a start. There are many more steps we need to take individually and collectively to realize the vast potential of North American energy.

For example, the United States needs to reform its current energy policies to streamline permitting and open new areas to prudent development—all while taking great care to protect the environment. It can be done.

Mexico’s energy sector has recently seen a decline in production.

We’re pleased that many Mexican leaders are now exploring creative approaches to bring foreign participation into its energy sector.

Once produced, all three countries need to facilitate the smooth flow of energy across borders so that it gets to where it is needed in the most cost-efficient manner possible.

That means the U.S. administration must quickly approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which it needlessly halted last year.

The bottom line is that energy is an extraordinary opportunity for North America. We must do everything in our power to seize it.

Our nations sometimes compete and sometimes disagree, but we are bound together by common history, ancestry, and culture.

But just as important as all of this, we are bound together by an extraordinary opportunity to build a new prosperity across North America.

We can do it by doubling down on free trade ideas like NAFTA that have already proven their success.

We can do it by strengthening our borders and accelerating the integration of our economies.

And we can do it by capitalizing on the rich natural resources with which we have been blessed.

NAFTA has helped produce two decades of economic growth, jobs, and higher living standards. If our three countries take the right steps today, we can produce 20 more years of outstanding economic progress.

Thank you for the opportunity to be here today, and I look forward to hearing your questions.

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