Editor’s note; Arizona Senator Jeff Flake recently made this statement on the floor of the Senate in support of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
I rise today because I believe some in Washington are under an illusion about what would happen if we were to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA.
Some people, inexplicably, think it would be a good thing. They believe the relationship between the United States, Mexico, and Canada is some kind of raw deal for Americans.
In reality, Mexico spends 26 percent of their GDP purchasing goods from the U.S. while we spend less than 1 percent of our GDP purchasing goods from them.
This threat of a dangerous trade deficit leaving Americans behind is nothing more than a myth.
These folks also seem to think terminating NAFTA will have no lasting impact on the nation or its economy.
These attitudes could not be further from the truth.
Pulling out of NAFTA will have sweeping negative ramifications on Americans all over the country.
Allow me to briefly describe what America would look like without NAFTA.
It’s an America with fewer jobs and higher unemployment. Some of these jobs that are lost will not return for a generation, others will likely never return.
It’s a poorer America. The Gross Domestic Product will drop. Much of the positive growth we have seen recently will be erased.
In the last year we have seen impressive GDP growth and we have achieved it through strong, conservative policies.
I hope that the days of 1 percent growth are behind us, but if we scrap NAFTA, that may not be the case.
An America without NAFTA is one crippled by subsidies.
I agree with my colleague from Kansas, and the Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman, Senator Roberts. He recently explained that withdrawal from NAFTA would add to farmers’ demands for increased farm subsidies at a time when Congress simply cannot afford that.
These farmers would much prefer to sell their crops for reasonable prices, but exiting NAFTA will leave them no choice other than to require additional economic protection through increased federal subsidies.
These new farm subsidies will substantially grow the national debt and dramatically curtail any ability to rein in government spending.
Without NAFTA we will find ourselves in a less secure America.
Withdrawal from NAFTA will destabilize the Mexican economy, creating a crisis on the southern border.
Terminating this agreement will seriously undercut the important progress that has been made over the past several decades improving drug enforcement and stabilizing the Mexican economy.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, the number of people caught trying to illegally cross the border from Mexico has fallen to the lowest level in 46 years.
However, if we pull out of NAFTA and allow Mexico to plunge into chaos and uncertainty, it will undoubtedly drive that number up as more and more of their citizens flee to America.
These are the real ramifications of terminating NAFTA.
An America of high unemployment, low GDP, more federal subsidies, and increased illegal immigration.
And all of this comes before we face the ultimate challenge of attempting to negotiate a new trade agreement to replace NAFTA.
Anyone who suggests that process will be quick and easy is sadly mistaken.
In today’s global economy people and nations have more choices than ever. For evidence of this, look no further than the disastrous decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Canada and Mexico, like the TPP nations, could decide to move ahead without the U.S. They could refocus their efforts on alternative markets and explore new trade partners.
Madame President, let’s not be fooled by those who would have us believe that the impact of exiting this trade agreement would be somehow minor or short-lived.
Let’s not be misled by those who are under the illusion that negotiating an entirely new trade deal will be simple and painless.
In closing, we have recently seen those who espouse these radical protectionist policies fall flat. Let’s see them for the charlatans they are and choose not follow them into the abyss.