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Another Voice: New York needs to stand up for NAFTA

By Phyllis Yaffe

As the sixth round of talks on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) concluded last week in Montreal, and as we look ahead to the next round to be held in Mexico in about a month, this is a critical moment for the Canada-U.S. relationship, and for the State of New York.

For more than two decades, the success of the Canada-New York partnership has been fuelled by NAFTA, which transformed North America into the biggest and most competitive economic region in the world, and multiplied benefits for the Empire State.

Today, Canada is New York’s number one customer. More than 680,000 jobs in the State depend on Canada-U.S. trade and investment. These are jobs in factories, farms, and firms all across New York.

And while it is easy to take for granted, we must remember that NAFTA spurred the establishment of a highly integrated network of supply chains, which has enabled companies in sectors like manufacturing, aerospace, and high technology to remain globally competitive by improving their productivity and efficiency.

The extent of the economic integration between Canada and the United States is striking, and this is true particularly for New York, given its geographic proximity to Canada. Companies from Buffalo, to Albany to New Hyde Park rely heavily on the flexibility and fluid access to the most competitively priced products that these supply chains provide, as well as to deep and broad markets across North America for their exports.

American automakers are particularly reliant on the competitive advantages of these cross-border supply chains. Take the Ford Stamping Plant in Buffalo for example, which employs more than 1000 United Auto Workers and ships the majority of its output to the Oakville Assembly Plant, across the border in Canada. These stamped auto parts are being transported daily, resulting in hundreds of truckloads crossing the border each week.

What does all this mean for the average New Yorker? Good middle-class jobs, better prices, greater selection, and higher quality goods and services.  NAFTA has greatly benefitted both companies and consumers in New York.

New York has a real economic stake in the ongoing NAFTA negotiations. Modernizing the Agreement would deliver even more benefits for New York, but a rejection of NAFTA would generate great uncertainty for New York businesses, hurting growth, jobs and competitiveness in the state.

The New York state of mind, to borrow Billy Joel’s famous phrase, has always been about openness and opportunity—and this is exactly what NAFTA provides. With the negotiations on the modernization of NAFTA at a critical juncture, now is the time to get engaged and call on the U.S. Administration to ensure that NAFTA is strengthened and improved.

NAFTA is more than a trade agreement—it is an anchor of stability for the U.S. and for North America.

This is our chance to create lasting conditions for prosperity and progress for our people. New York’s voice is vital as we work to seize this opportunity.

 Phyllis Yaffe is consul general of Canada in New York.

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