Ten years ago, the United States, Canada, and Mexico agreed to create the world's largest free trade area. By any measure, the North American Free Trade Agreement, known as NAFTA, has been a success.
The dismantling of trade barriers by NAFTA has led to increased trade and investment, employment, and competitiveness. Since 1994, trade among the U.S., Canada, and Mexico has reached over six-hundred billion dollars, more than double the pre-NAFTA level. From 1994 to 2003, foreign investment in the three countries increased by nearly one-and-three-quarter trillion dollars. Increased investment spurred by NAFTA has brought more and better-paying jobs, as well as lower costs and more choices for consumers and producers. NAFTA has also led to improved environmental and labor cooperation.
The United States supports NAFTA and other free trade agreements because, in the words of President George W. Bush, “a world that trades in freedom will grow in prosperity and security”:
“For developing nations, free trade tied to economic reform has helped to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. The growth of economic freedom and ownership in developing countries creates the habits of liberty and creates the pressure for democracy and political reform. Economic integration through trade can also foster political cooperation by promoting peace between nations. As free trade expands across the earth, the realm of human freedom expands with it.”
In the Western Hemisphere, NAFTA and other agreements are paving the way for a bigger goal: the Free Trade Area of the Americas. The F-T-A-A would bring together thirty-four Western Hemisphere nations with a combined gross domestic product of more than ten-trillion dollars and a market of over three-quarters of a billion people. The U.S. hopes to conclude negotiations for the Free Trade Area of the Americas next year.
The U.S. is also looking beyond the Western Hemisphere. “Across the globe,” says President Bush, “free markets and trade have helped defeat poverty and taught men and women the habits of liberty. The benefits of open trade are measured not only in dollars and cents, but in human freedom, human dignity, human rights, and progress.”