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NAFTA's Economic Upsides

The View From the United States

U.S. President Bill Clinton signs side deals to the North American Free Trade Agreement, September 1993. Win McNamee / Courtesy Reuters

In the 20 years since it entered into force, the North American Free Trade Agreement has been both lauded and attacked in the United States. But to properly assess NAFTA’s record, it is important to first be clear about what the agreement has actually done. Economically speaking, the answer is a lot. By uniting the economies of Canada, Mexico, and the United States, NAFTA created what is today a $19 trillion regional market with some 470 million consumers. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce figures that some six million U.S. jobs depend on trade with Mexico and another eight million on trade with Canada. NAFTA was the first comprehensive free-trade agreement to join developed and developing nations, and it achieved broader and deeper market openings than any trade agreement had before.

NAFTA did that by eliminating tariffs on all industrial goods, guaranteeing unrestricted agricultural trade between the United States and Mexico,

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