By Laurence Iliff, Crain News Service
MEXICO CITY — Mexican auto industry officials are lining up their arguments to defend the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) against President-elect Donald Trump's campaign promise to renegotiate the pact or throw it out altogether.
The officials, armed with data and economic studies, have boiled their arguments down to a simple message: The U.S. is much better off with the 1994 trade deal than without it. In an era of global competition, they claim, Mexico complements the U.S. and Canada more than it competes with them.
Although nervous about eventual talks between Mexico and the Trump administration, the industry leaders say they have a winning argument since the pact has woven trilateral ties that cannot be torn apart without major damage to the North American auto industry.
That warning may appeal to Mr. Trump's instincts as a businessman who knows his way around the world, and as a newly minted politician who wants to deliver on his promise to protect American manufacturing jobs.
“Mr. Trump has said that he is going to be the president (who) promotes jobs, and in order to have jobs you have to be competitive,” Eduardo Solis, president of the Mexican Automotive Industry Association, said recently at an auto industry gathering.
“The North American region has to be analyzed vs. the other regions of the world, not Mexico vs. the United States,” he added.
Mr. Solis, a former government trade negotiator, warned against assuming the worst-case scenario from Mr. Trump.
“The relationship is so strong among the industries in the three countries,” he said. “We have to use that as a starting point and not what happens if the United States leaves NAFTA.”
At a conference in Mexico City, industry leaders representing auto makers, truck makers, suppliers and retailers in Mexico defended NAFTA as essential to the U.S. economy.