April 5, 2019
LITTLE ROCK – During a visit two years ago with President Trump at the White House, I took the opportunity to stress the importance of global trade to Arkansas’s economy. At the time, the president was negotiating with Canada and Mexico for a modernized NAFTA agreement that was more fair to the United States.
The president never gave up on this issue, and late last year, he led the way as the United States, Mexico and Canada signed a new agreement. The new agreement is known as the United States Mexico Canada Agreement, or USMCA. The pact will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.
We can’t know for sure the harm the state would suffer without an agreement but the loss in trade and jobs would be significant. The numbers show the benefit when we can freely and fairly export to our North American partners. Canada is Arkansas’s largest trading partner. Our neighbor to the north imported more than $1.2 billion worth of Arkansas products in 2018. That is almost 19 percent of our total exports. Mexico, our second-largest partner, imported nearly $900 million worth of our goods last year.
Combined, our exports to those two nations in 2018 was a little more than 32 percent of our state’s total exports, which was $6.5 billion.
To put that in perspective, you have to add the imports of the next eight countries to match the money our two North American neighbors spent buying our goods and products last year.
Agriculture is our No. 1 industry, and Mexico and Canada are our top agriculture customers. Between them, Mexico and Canada buy $500 million worth of agriculture products from Arkansas.
Mexico buys $1.2 million worth of Arkansas eggs, $103 million worth of poultry, and $42 million worth of rice.
Canada buys $62 million worth of Arkansas rice, $44 million worth poultry, and $22 million worth of eggs. But it is more than agriculture. It is about our auto parts industry, our aero defense products, and jobs created in a wide variety of industry.
Seventeen Canadian companies employ 2,800 workers at 30 facilities in our state. Mexico’s companies employ approximately 2,100 people at 14 facilities.
We can’t overemphasize the importance of the free flow of commerce between our North American neighbors. I have written our Senate leadership and asked them to ratify this trade agreement, which is so important to Arkansas.