Statement from UAW President Dennis Williams on NAFTA negotiation meetings
This week, as trade negotiators from U.S., Mexico, and Canada meet in our nation’s capital, they must squarely confront the reality that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has failed working people in all three countries. NAFTA renegotiations will only be successful if it leads to higher wages for workers in all three countries and puts an end to our crippling auto trade deficit with Mexico.
To that end, negotiators must comprehensively focus on balanced trade that provides real wage growth for American, Canadian with special emphasis on Mexican workers, whose suppressed wages are harmful for all three countries. We must stop allowing companies to abuse their workers to gain a competitive edge. Toothless labor chapters from failed trade agreements will not get the job done. We need an innovative approach. If not, NAFTA will continue to fail workers as it has for nearly a quarter of a century.
No amount of spin by corporate lobbyists representing companies who outsource can change the facts on what has happened to workers as a result of NAFTA. Countless manufacturing plants throughout our country have closed and hundreds of thousands of good jobs to Mexico have vanished. In 1993, the United States had an automotive trade deficit with Mexico of $3.5 billion. By 2016 that deficit had grown to $45.1 billion. For auto parts, the United States’ deficit with Mexico was $100 million in 1993; it was 200 times larger by 2016, at $23.8 billion.
Let me be clear. Mexican workers are not to blame for NAFTA’s failures. The average autoworker in Mexico makes $3.00 an hour or less, despite healthy industry profits. Labor standards continue to be dismal, since Mexican workers are prevented from exercising their rights and bargaining for better wages and working conditions.
If multinational corporations remain in the driver’s seat, NAFTA renegotiations will not succeed and working people will continue to suffer. We cannot let that happen.