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Ohio Businesses Increasingly Worried About Trump’s Threats To Withdraw From NAFTA

Gas turbine parts
Pro-Per Energy Services
Wikimedia Commons
Turbojets and gas turbines parts were one of Ohio's top exports in 2016.

As negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) enter their sixth round this week, some Ohio business owners are worried the U.S. will follow through on President Trump’s threat to withdraw from the nearly 25-year-old agreement.

Trump has been a persistent critic of NAFTA, calling it the "worst trade deal ever made." But that feeling isn't shared by many in the Northeast Ohio business community.

“We’ve got a lot of companies that are trading across our northern and southern border,” said Marty McGann, Senior Vice President of Government Advocacy at the Greater Cleveland Partnership (GCP), who said that many of the organization's members are growing “increasingly worried” about the possibility that NAFTA negotiations will fail.

“Ohio has benefited a lot from [NAFTA] over the last quarter century,” McGann said.

That’s why McGann is meeting this week in Montreal with about 24 dozen business advocates from Mexico, Canada and other U.S. cities (including Los Angeles, Boston and Detroit) to discuss strategies to advocate for NAFTA’s renewal.

The goal of this meeting, according to a statement by the Canadian Global Cities Council, which organized the gathering, “will be to clearly identify the issues around the renewal of NAFTA and the risks that our companies would face in the event of the current negotiations’ failure.”

“Nobody’s disagreed that there’s a need to modernize this agreement,” McGann said of the NAFTA, which went into effect in 1994. “It’s really about making sure those modernizations take place and that open free trade between the three countries continues.”

Asked what policies GCP's members would like to see in a 'modernized' agreement, McGann declined to elaborate.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over half of Ohio exports in recent years have gone to Canada (38.8 percent) and Mexico (13.1 percent). The state’s exports are dominated by manufactured goods, with machinery, vehicle parts, aircraft parts, plastics and oilseed accounting for the majority of goods shipped internationally.

In 2016, Ohio was the eighth largest exporting state, with about $49.1 billion worth of goods being shipped out of state, according to an analysis by the Ohio Development Services Agency.

Negotiations are expected to run all week through January 29, according to Bloomberg.

Adrian Ma is a business reporter and recovering law clerk for ideastream in Cleveland. Since making the switch from law to journalism, he's reported on how New York's helicopter tour industry is driving residents nuts, why competition is heating up among Ohio realtors, and the controlled-chaos of economist speed-dating. Previously, he was a producer at WNYC News. His work has also aired on NPR's Planet Money, and Marketplace. In 2017, the Association of Independents in Radio designated him a New Voices Scholar, an award recognizing new talent in public media. Some years ago, he worked in a ramen shop.