The fate of tens of thousands of Missouri jobs could hinge on trade talks set to resume this week in Montreal. Negotiators from the United States, Canada and Mexico will gather for another round of North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations. The U.S. wants to rework the deal, or possibly withdraw altogether.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says roughly 250,000 jobs in Missouri could be affected if the Trump administration decides to leave NAFTA.
John Horn, Washington University Olin School of Business senior lecturer, spoke about the impact possible changes to NAFTA could have on Missouri and the relationship with two of its top trading partners: Canada and Mexico.
Along with the U.S. Chamber’s estimate about the number of jobs that would be at risk, leaving NAFTA could reduce the number of international markets where many Missouri businesses already sell goods and services. Horn also pointed to U.S. Census figures showing 4.4 percent of all Missouri employees work at operations owned by foreign companies. A NAFTA pullout could prompt those employers to leave the U.S. or double-down on the American market because international trade options would be more limited. “My guess is they probably would be pulling out,” Horn said.
Several economists agree that free trade “helps grow the overall pie,” Horn said. “What free trade does not necessarily do well is spread the benefits of that larger pie among the whole population.” He added that those who believed they lost under NAFTA tended to vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Some elements of NAFTA could be working better, and some areas could be tweaked, but Horn doesn’t believe the U.S. would benefit from throwing out the entire agreement.
NAFTA talks resume Tuesday in Montreal. This sixth round of negotiations is slated to last through Sunday. There was a minor round of discussions last December in Washington, D.C. A specific timeline to wrap up all rounds of discussions has not been set. Top negotiators for all three countries have vowed to wrap up, “as soon as possible.”
Read more: St. Louis Public Radio