Governors & Premiers on NAFTA: A View from States and Provinces




WITA welcomed the Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado, the Premier Kathleen Wynne of Ontario, Premier Philippe Couillard of Quebec and, Governor Francisco Dominguez Servien of Querétaro, Mexico to discuss what the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement means to U.S. and Mexican states and Canadian provinces.

For more information on the event and information on the speakers, visit the events page here.

Governors & Premiers on NAFTA: A View from States and Provinces

By: Henry Menn

Governor Francisco Dominguez Servien took the stage first and emphasized the lesson that NAFTA has taught about economic openness. The governor argued that as a result of NAFTA, the largest economic bloc in the world has been able to integrate, innovate, and progress. To support this, he spoke about how much the economy in Queretaro has improved since NAFTA. Since NAFTA, Queretaro has posted annual growth rates over 3% annually and the labor force has grown 168%. He attributed his region’s strong economic progress to the trading relationship between the United States, Mexico, and Canada. Stemming from this point, the Governor pointed out the development potential of NAFTA. Having witnessed a substantial transformation in his own region, he argued that open trade has the potential to lift regions out of economic disadvantage and into a new age of prosperity. The Governor concluded his remarks by reaffirming his region’s desire to remain an integral part of the most powerful, prosperous, and caring trading bloc of the world.

Premier Kathleen Wynne followed up and agreed strongly with Governor Servien’s points. She emphasized the openness and collaboration it takes for the NAFTA region to maintain preeminence in the global trading system. She argued that the point of NAFTA is to create certainty, and currently NAFTA has sowed uncertainty. In the face of doubts concerning NAFTA, Premier Wynne spoke about NAFTA’s proven record of success and the millions of jobs dependent on the agreement as reasons to continue the agreement. She concluded by emphasizing the need to continue advocating for free trade and safeguard the NAFTA agreement that has enabled all three jurisdictions to be so prosperous.

Premier Philippe Couillard started off by noting a similarity between all governors: all actively support NAFTA. In his opinion, Premier Couillard believes this is because all governors see the firsthand benefits of NAFTA and open trade everyday. In his region of Canada, the agricultural and manufacturing industries thrive because of the regional agreement. However, he was quick to annotate that these companies are multinational and their operations span the North American continent, making NAFTA an essential component of their business operation. Premier Couillard ended by acknowledging that NAFTA has some imperfections, but the reinvention of the agreement is essential to preserving the foundation of shared vision, hope, trust and friendship that has led to prosperity.

Governor John Hickenlooper finished off the opening remarks by speaking on how important NAFTA has been to Colorado. In the past two years, trade with NAFTA partners has risen 167% in Colorado. Governor Hickenlooper pointed out that this serves as evidence of the increasing relevance of the agreement. Currently, 34% of all Colorado exports are to NAFTA partners, with a focus in agriculture. This valuable amount of trade strengthens rural economies and helps to unite rural and urban communities in an increasingly polarized relationship. Governor Hickenlooper concluded by emphasizing the importance the agreement holds in increasing living standards in all three nations and bringing together the nations in culture and friendship.

Ambassador Susan Schwab opened the panel by noting the importance of the people in the room. She introduced those on the panel influencers and job creators in their respective countries, and then asked them to speak on what they considered to be the most important aspect of NAFTA and what they would like to see changed. Premier Philippe Couillard kicked off the remarks by emphasizing the ability of open markets to create jobs, however he stated that NAFTA needed to adjust to the digital economy to stay relevant. Premier Kathleen Wynne highlighted how important regional integration is for innovation, but noted that NAFTA’s age has led to gaps developing in technology and equality between the three nations. Governor John Hickenlooper went next and recounted some remarkable travel experiences through Canada and Mexico. These experiences showed him how similar the people of all three nations are, and highlighted how NAFTA has enabled all three nations to help one another.

Governor Francisco Dominguez Servien wrapped up the panel discussion by praising the NAFTA relationship for the jobs it has created in the manufacturing sector of Mexico. However, he recognized that the agreement must update itself in terms of labor equality in the coming years in order to create a more prosperous society for all.