Congressmen lead efforts to bring new NAFTA signing ceremony to San Antonio

As the Trump administration moves forward with plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, two congressmen are pushing for the new trade deal to be signed where it was born – San Antonio.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, and U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, are officially campaigning for “NAFTA 2.0” to be signed in the Alamo City.

The two congressman drew cheers during a Friday luncheon hosted by the Free Trade Alliance after announcing their efforts to bring signing ceremony to San Antonio.

“NAFTA was born here and the new deal should be signed here,” Cuellar told more than 200 business leaders attending the event.

Hurd told the crowd that he has already asked U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross about the topic.

“That request has already been made,” Hurd said.

Former U.S. President Former President George H.W. Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari signed the original trade deal between the three nations at the Old German School off South Alamo Road during a October 1992 ceremony. At the time of the ceremony, Cuellar was serving in the Texas House of Representatives while Hurd was a junior at John Marshall High School in San Antonio.

Cuellar told the Business Journal that his and Hurd’s requests to have a new ceremony in San Antonio have been made known to the Trump administration but the final decision will be made by the president.

“The White House has the final say,” Cuellar said.

President Donald Trump has pledged to renegotiate or scrap the trilateral trade deal between the United States, Canada and Mexico citing trade deficits and the loss of manufacturing jobs. The Trump administration launched its intent to renegotiate the trade in May, took public comments, held three days of hearings and then released its objectives on Monday.

Cuellar and Hurd said they have reviewed the Trump administration’s objectives released on Monday and were both encouraged by its practical tone on modernizing the 24-year-old free trade deal. Formal negotiations are expected to start in mid-August but face challenges in 2018 from Mexico’s presidential elections and the mid-term congressional elections in the United States.

“Will and I pushing for a new title dealing with energy,” Cuellar said. “I think that we need to do more. Just in case there is a change of government in Mexico, whatever changes they make and whatever changes we want to see, to make sure that’s put in concrete. To make sure that we become the new Middle East of the world — the United States, Canada and Mexico.”

Hurd, whose district spans 800 miles of the border, said some trade items such as sugar with Mexico and lumber with Canada have already been pre-negotiated allowing negotiators to speed up the process. In the meantime, he is trying to keep the renegotiate efforts in a “do no harm” tone.

“Let’s make sure that we can in improve it and there’s a number of areas whether its energy or the data economy — things that have changed over the last quarter and we should be taking advantage of new technology,” Hurd said.


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Sergio Chapa covers manufacturing and the energy industry