By J.T. Lain | Cronkite News
rizona Gov. Doug Ducey told a U.S.-Mexico diplomacy conference maintaining good trade between the countries is important, and he expects the state to have a “seat at the table” in any upcoming trade negotiations. Ducey’s comments, to a conference of business and community leaders from both sides of the border, come a month after President Donald Trump notified Congress of his plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Trump has called NAFTA “the worst trade deal ever” and pledged to rework it to get higher-paying jobs for American workers and more economic growth for the nation.
Ducey and other Republican lawmakers in Arizona have praised the deal, which they said has brought billions in new trade to the U.S. While he backs “free and fair trade,” however, Ducey said he is not opposed to a revised version if the pact can be improved.
“The world has changed tremendously since the 1990s,” when NAFTA took effect, said Ducey, adding that he wants Arizona to take a look at the agreement to find areas where it can be modernized and improved.
But some state lawmakers say the pact has done a good job as is.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., tweeted that trade between the U.S. and Mexico increased from $50 billion to $500 billion – a 900 percent jump. He is running a social media campaign, #nafta4az, asking Arizonans to send him their personal stories in support of the agreement.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., tweeted that withdrawing from NAFTA would be “a disaster.”
Ducey said Mexico is Arizona’s largest trading partner and he sees economic growth opportunity at the border. But he acknowledged that there are problems and political realities Arizona has to face with Mexico.
James Jones, a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico, said during the luncheon that relations between Arizona and Mexico were strained in recent years.
Arizona made headlines with its SB1070 law, the harsh “papers please” immigration law aimed at cracking down on illegal immigrants. Long lines coupled with intricate inspections at ports-of-entry caused truckers to drive to California or Texas – where inspection lines were shorter – bypassing Arizona entirely.
Ducey stressed the importance of a good relationship with Mexico that he said lets both parties “communicate and put problem solvers together” to jointly address any negatives.