OTTAWA, Ontario – Jan. 1 marked the start of a new year and the 20th anniversary of the North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Reviews of the trade accord's success have been mixed.
NAFTA came into force Jan. 1, 1994, creating the world's largest free-trade zone between the United States, Canada and Mexico. In Canada, productivity increased 14 percent, according to Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, a federal agency. Additional ways Canada benefited from NAFTA include:
• Since NAFTA came into force in 1994, Canada’s annual GDP has risen by nearly $1.2 trillion, 4.7 million jobs have been created in Canada, and the country’s trilateral trade in goods with the US and Mexico has more than tripled.
• In 1993, trilateral trade within the North American region was US$289 billion. In 2012, total trilateral merchandise trade reached nearly US$1.1 trillion — a nearly fourfold increase.
• More than 8 million US jobs depend on trade with Canada, and more than 2 million Canadian jobs — one in seven — depend on trade with the US.
• Canada is the top export destination for 38 US states.
• Approximately $1.8 billion in goods and services cross the border every day — $1.2 million every minute.
• Canada is the largest supplier of oil, nuclear fuel, electricity and natural gas to the US.
“Building on this success, our government is moving forward with the most ambitious trade expansion plan in Canadian history, which includes a comprehensive, next-generation trade agreement with the European Union. This agreement is even broader in scope and more ambitious than NAFTA and will generate benefits in key economic sectors covering every region of Canada.”
In 2009, US goods and services trade under NAFTA totaled $1.6 trillion. Exports totaled $397 billion, while imports totaled $438 billion, according to the Office of the US Trade Representative.
However, an Associated Press report noted that NAFTA did not live up to its billing in many ways. In Mexico, for example, NAFTA didn't close the wage gap between Mexico and the US or dramatically increase jobs, fight poverty and protect the environment there. But without NAFTA, Mexico could have been in worse shape, according to AP.
Other news reports state that NAFTA undercut wages in the US and Canada and undermined worker protections in all three countries. NAFTA also is blamed, in part, for the outsourcing of American jobs.