Business leaders expect 'new NAFTA' will benefit local labor

Dec 6, 2018

Local experts are weighing in on the new U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement, signed by the leaders of the three countries last Friday.

World Trade Center Buffalo Niagara held a panel discussion on the USMCA, Wednesday, at Hodgson Russ, in downtown Buffalo.
Credit Chris Caya WBFO News

World Trade Center Buffalo Niagara held a panel discussion about the new trade deal Wednesday in downtown Buffalo. Jack O'Donnell, a partner with the lobbying firm Bolton-St. Johns, says as part of the agreement, Mexico has made a commitment to change its labor laws and that should help level playing field for local manufacturers.      
    
"It makes it less of a race to the bottom, that people will go there for the cheapest outcome. Frankly I think that's probably good for local labor because we've got one of the best workforces in the world here in Western New York, well-educated, hard-working, committed folks. And so when they're competing on playing on a level playing field, a lot of times they're going to win," O'Donnell says.  

M&T Bank VP Lauren Schellinger, Hodgson Russ partner Christine Bonaguide, and Bolton St.Johns partner, Jack O'Donnell listen as WTCBN President Craig Turner talks about the possible impact of the USMCA
Credit Chris Caya WBFO News

The deal must still pass Congress and with Democrats taking control of the House, negotiations with the Trump Administration could drag on. But M&T Bank Vice President Lauren Schellinger says the importance of cross-border trade is well known on Capitol Hill. She expects it will be ratified.

"I fully expect that there will be a lot of well-needed discussion around specifics within the agreement. There's no ability for Congress to make amendments to this agreement without sort of reopening negotiation with all three countries. So it could be a messy process, but my hope and my suspicion is it will be ratified," Schellinger said.        

Last year alone, businesses across New York state exported $15.4 billion worth of goods to Canada and $3.1 billion in goods to Mexico, according to the U.S. Trade Representative.