Alexander Joins 18 Senators in Letter Affirming Importance of NAFTA to New U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer

Posted on May 16, 2017

WASHINGTON, May 16, 2017 – U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) made the case for maintaining and strengthening the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in a letter led by Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) to newly confirmed US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

“Over the last few decades, trade, including the North American Free Trade Agreement, has been responsible for thousands of new jobs and higher family incomes in Tennessee,” Alexander said today. “We ought not to lose sight of the benefits of trade – Tennessee sends soybeans, cars, auto parts, and medical devices all over the world.”

In all, last year Tennessee businesses exported $31.4 billion of goods ranging from cars, to medical devices and agricultural products.  According to the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, 926 foreign-based businesses employ more than 127,200 Tennesseans.  Auto related manufacturing, which is the state’s largest export, accounts for one third of Tennessee’s manufacturing jobs and can be found in 86 of Tennessee’s 95 counties.

Alexander was one of 18 senators who joined in sending the letter to Lighthizer after the Senate confirmed his nomination.

The full text of that letter is below:

Dear Ambassador Lighthizer,

We write to congratulate you on your confirmation as United States Trade Representative.  With your rich experience in international trade issues and negotiating trade agreements, we are pleased you are at the helm of the office that facilitates U.S. trade.  U.S. trade policy has remained a prominent issue in recent months and it appears that taking a fresh look at the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) will be an immediate priority. 

Among other benefits, NAFTA has led to tremendous growth in U.S. trade with Mexico and Canada, integrated cross-border supply chains that benefit U.S. employers, and more than tripled U.S. exports of goods (including agricultural and manufactured goods) and services.  Given that the agreement is more than two decades old, there are areas in which NAFTA will benefit from strengthening and modernization.  On the other hand, efforts to abandon the agreement or impose unnecessary restrictions on trade with our North American partners will have devastating economic consequences.

As senators who represent states that see economic benefit from NAFTA, we will maintain a keen interest in the on-going process surrounding NAFTA and look forward to working with your office.