Prosperity: The Upstate’s Trade With Canada

The Friday 5
August 18, 2017
The Friday 5
August 25, 2017

Prosperity: The Upstate’s Trade With Canada

The Takeaway:

Modernize, don’t scrap NAFTA. Canadian trade helps power SC jobs.


It should be no secret that international trade has revolutionized the Upstate economy. Trade with Canada – thanks to the North American Free Trade Agreement – is a major part of our success.

The NAFTA renegotiation began this week, and any discussions of major trade deals are important to the Upstate economy. Trade powers our economy, creates jobs, and boosts our standard of living. The Upstate Chamber Coalition believes it is important to update NAFTA, but don’t scrap the agreement.

President Trump’s chief negotiator, U.S Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, said the deal has “fundamentally failed many, many Americans.” We whole-heartedly disagree in the Upstate.

According to the U.S. and South Carolina departments of commerce, South Carolina has nearly $6.5 billion in annual trade with Canada, and Canadian companies employ more than 9,500 fellow South Carolinians. It is estimated that up to 165,000 jobs in our state are directly linked to trade with Canada.

In the Upstate, we focus on Canada when talking about NAFTA thanks to David Wilkins, former U.S. Ambassador to Canada and, before that, former S.C. Speaker of the House. (Wilkins is also a current board member of the Greenville Chamber.)

“NAFTA was crafted in a time before we imagined prolific cell phone and even email usage, before e-commerce would change the face of trade and before the Internet would make the world a smaller and totally interconnected, as well as change a generation’s meaning of borders and boundaries,” Wilkins said. “So it is certainly appropriate – and I believe smart and strategic – for all three NAFTA countries to update this decades-old document with an eye to the technology-driven future.”

Wilkins said that the Upstate business community should watch those benchmarks, required by law, so the Trump Administration will provide Congress updates on the negotiations throughout the process.

“It is important that we do not rush into a deal or let the political winds of the day influence the outcome,” Wilkins said.

Since NAFTA was signed in 1994, South Carolina’s trade with Canada and Mexico has grown 381 percent ($4.4 billion), and since 2006, our exports alone have grown $1.3 billion.

Opponents to free trade, on the right and the left, argue that these trade deals hurt American workers – despite the 165,000 jobs in South Carolina dependent on trade with Canada. Wilkins said that history clearly shows that protectionism hurts American workers and hurts the American businesses it claims to protect.

“I love my country – fiercely.  I take great pride in America, in American made products, and in American workers.  But I am also a student of history,” Wilkins said. “Robust, free and fair trade is the cornerstone of a thriving US economy.  I agree with our president that these deals need to be ‘smart,’ but they likewise need to be done.  We need American made products in every corner of the world, and I think expanded trade – especially with our closest friends like Canada and Mexico – only expands our economies and the viability and vitality of hardworking American families.”

As all three countries gear up for a new round of NAFTA negotiations, the Upstate Chamber Coalition will work with the U.S. Chamber and our federal representatives to keep our investors apprised of the progress and ensure your interests are represented.