Craddick: When it Comes to NAFTA, Mend it. Don’t end it.

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HOUSTON – In case you missed it, please see Railroad Commission Chairman Christi Craddick’s editorial on the importance of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) for Texas and the state’s energy industry, as published in the Houston Chronicle last week. The editorial can be read online here and below.

When it Comes to NAFTA, Mend it. Don’t end it.
By Chairman Christi Craddick
Many Texans support NAFTA based on the premise that it allows American workers and businesses to compete on a level playing field with anyone in the world.

President Trump has tapped into the concern of many workers that international trade is too often tilted against American interests. From the dumping of Chinese steel to foreign governments propping up domestic companies for an unfair competitive advantage, there are legitimate concerns about trade practices that harm American industry.

When you couple these concerns with a confiscatory tax policy that sends jobs and investment overseas, American industry – particularly American manufacturing – has been losing jobs for a generation.

But Texans know when it comes to trade agreements like NAFTA, the answer is to mend it, not end it. President Trump must be urged to recognize the agreement’s importance to our state, because the alternative would be detrimental to the Texas and American economy.

Texas is the gateway to trade with Latin America. We’re also the nation’s leading exporter to our southern neighbor. Our people, products and innovations flow south in record numbers, not only creating opportunities abroad, but jobs back home.

And with the privatization of the Mexican energy sector, new opportunities are emerging that will unleash energy jobs, opportunity and investment in Texas and across the United States.

In the last two years, natural gas exports to Mexico have doubled. Over the course of the next two years, six new pipelines will open, carrying American gas south to Mexico. This new dynamic is a big part of the reason that the United States became a net exporter of natural gas for the first time in 60 years this past June, boosting not only our state’s economy but security abroad for our friends and allies. It’s also expected that offshore leasing of Mexican oil fields could reach $50 billion in investment.

As the U.S. seeks to re-negotiate NAFTA, the Office of the United States Trade Representative describes its energy policy goals to, “Preserve and strengthen investment, market access, and state-owned enterprise disciplines benefitting energy production and transmission and support North American energy security and independence, while promoting continuing energy market-opening reforms.” If these goals are met, it will mean energy growth and prosperity for Texas and the U.S.

As a state with a 1,254-mile international border, we also know how critical it is that we cooperate with our North American neighbors on grid interconnections. Grid stability benefits from the international exchange of energy and electricity resources.

Investments in a diverse energy supply, the means to transport energy resources, and the generation of conventional and renewable sources is vital to our future. Doing it as North American partners is just as critical.

We need a North American energy strategy, in partnership with Mexico and Canada, that leverages our shared energy potential. We can achieve energy security as a continent, greatly reducing our reliance on hostile sources of energy, if we work across shared borders to advance shared economic and security interests.

Doing this requires not withdrawing from NAFTA or harming longstanding trade relationships with our neighbors, but sitting down to hash out agreements about renewable standards and environmental commitments, focusing on joint infrastructure projects, and agreeing to 21st century rules and regulations that advance our collective prosperity.

Protectionist policies, though well-meaning, could greatly harm American investments in Mexican energy fields and our shared goal of North American energy security. That is a non-starter for Texas and it must be a non-starter for President Trump.