Alexander: NAFTA Has Been Good for Rutherford County

Posted on March 27, 2018

MURFREESBORO, Tenn., March 27, 2018 – United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said to members of the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce and Healthcare Council the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) “has been good for Rutherford County jobs. We have twice as many auto jobs in Tennessee today than we did in 1994 when NAFTA took effect,” he said.

“Tennessee’s connections with the world has helped attract and create good-paying jobs. We export more than $30 billion each year, including cars and auto parts, medical devices and agricultural products. 943 foreign based businesses employ more than 140,000 Tennesseans, according to the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. President Trump has been a good listener on what I have had to say about NAFTA negotiations—but I am afraid I haven’t persuaded him yet.”

Alexander talked about why Nissan decided to build its assembly plant in Rutherford County, and said that one third of Tennessee manufacturing jobs are now auto jobs  thanks to trade, lower taxes, skilled workers, and Tennessee’s right to work law.  Alexander said changes to NAFTA and tariffs on steel and aluminum could make it more expensive to build cars and auto parts in Tennessee, threatening thousands of auto jobs.

Alexander also told the story of Jimmy, a pork farmer in West Tennessee who expressed his opposition to leaving NAFTA because trade is the lifeblood of his farm. Pork farmers in Tennessee export more than $23 million worth of pork products a year.

Alexander continued: “The goal of the steel and aluminum tariffs sounds pretty good, but the effect won’t be so good for Tennessee. Take for example what happened in Springfield, Tennessee. Electrolux, the largest manufacturer of home appliances in Europe that has about 1,000 employees in Tennessee, announced it was going to invest $250 million in Springfield, but because of the tariffs, the company put the investment on hold. This means fewer jobs for Tennessee.”

The senator said the steel and aluminum tariffs are big taxes that will raise the price on consumer goods, including for Joe, a sheet metal fabricator in Murfreesboro, who builds heating and cooling systems and has seen a 50 percent increase in raw materials since the announced steel tariffs.  

“These tariffs will be harmful to Tennessee business. I was at Bridgestone the other day – we are very fortunate to have Bridgestone Tires and Hankook in Tennessee – and the tires they make have steel cord to make them stronger. That steel cord is not manufactured in the United States, so Bridgestone is going to pay another $28 million in tariff taxes that will come out of its bottom line. Higher prices because of the tariffs will make it harder for Tennessee to be competitive.”