San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer joined local business and political leaders Thursday to highlight the importance of NAFTA amid contentious politics and a looming trade war.
“NAFTA works. Free trade works. And we’re going to continue to tell that story,” said Faulconer. “Should we make some changes? Absolutely. Should we keep it going? 100 percent.”
Faulconer was on hand for the release of a new report that shows businesses on both sides of the border in the Cali-Baja region export $24.3 billion annually and support 418,300 jobs.
“This is not a political science debate. This is about real families,” Faulconer said, emphasizing the employment benefits of collaborating across the border.
The North American Free Trade Agreement covers $3.6 billion in trade daily between the United States, Canada and Mexico and supports 14 million jobs in the United States.
“An integrated North American economy creates opportunity on both sides of the border. For every 10 jobs an American multinational creates in Mexico, it creates 25 in the United States,” said Nikia Clarke, executive director of the World Trade Center San Diego, which sponsored the report.
But Faulconer, Clarke and other officials lamented the difficulty in explaining the importance of trade amid the contentious national politics in both the United States and Mexico.
“It’s become abundantly clear to everyone that telling the trade story nationally is really difficult,” Clarke said. “What this country needs right now is people who understand the regional reality of global trade.”
Rafael Fernandez de Castro, director of the Center for U.S.-Mexico Studies at UC San Diego, said the San Diego and Tijuana experience is an important example of how trade works. “This region has learned how to deal with each other, how to produce across the border, and I believe this is very meaningful in these difficult times.”
He said it was important for regional business and political leaders to promote their success to national political leaders.
“We can’t really trust the capitals — Washington, DC, and Mexico City,” he said.