San Antonio Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Richard Perez joined business and government leaders from Canada, Mexico, and the United States last week in Mexico City for a forum on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Richard was invited by the government of Quebec to speak about the impact that NAFTA has had on San Antonio and the surrounding region.
Various local industries have grown through the trade agreement, which was first signed by President Bill Clinton in downtown San Antonio in 1993. The Chamber has been advocating for the interests of retail, automotive, energy, infrastructure, and many others within their supply chains since the negotiations of NAFTA 2.0 began in 2017. Maintaining a strong NAFTA is fundamental, along with modernizing key areas that have developed since the original agreement, such as internet-based processes and sales.
Gerardo (Gerald) Schwebel, an Executive Vice President at IBC Bank, joined a panel of other business representatives from Mexico and Canada to share the private sector’s perspective about the impact of free trade between our countries.
This event occurred at the same time the seventh round of the negotiations were being held nearby. Other news affecting the landscape last week included San Antonio leader Ed Whitacre being mentioned as the likely nominee to succeed Roberta Jacobson as U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. Mr. Whitacre has had a successful career leading prominent businesses, including AT&T and General Motors, and has received numerous recognition over the years.
Negotiations have become heated over the last few rounds, making an updated agreement and a feasible timeline of concluding in March uncertain. While official talks were underway, President Trump stated an intention to introduce new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum creating a political frenzy in Washington, DC. On March 6, the President’s top economic advisor Gary Cohn stepped down from his post in disagreement with the chief executive’s hardline approach to trade. Republican Congressional leadership has also publicly opposed the measure in order to create political and market stability.
Our leadership and staff will remain active in advocating for a strong trilateral trade agreement until one is reached and will inform our membership of progress as it is made.