Why are NAFTA negotiations moving so slowly?

Nov 20, 2017

There are a lot of uncertainties in trade, from the North American Free Trade Agreement to its effects on cities and rural areas. One corporate veteran shared his insight at a recent annual meeting of the World Trade Center Buffalo Niagara.


Scott Miller spent 34 years on the corporate ladder at Proctor and Gamble, finishing up dealing with international trade issues in Washington, D.C. He then shifted to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

He said trade under the Trump Administration is suffering because so few federal executives who advise the president on trade have been appointed in the year since Trump was elected. Miller says may be slowing negotiations over NAFTA.

"NAFTA was never perfect. It's not perfect now, wasn't perfect in 1994. But it was stable," Miller said. "Buffalo Niagara is a great example of that because everybody here basically took it as sort of the rules for how we make things today in North America, built their customer base, developed supply networks and built their business. It's an ecosystem. Now, is the ecosystem dead or alive? We don't know."

Scott Miller, Senior Adviser and Scholl Chair in International Business, CSIS
Credit Center for Strategic & International Studies

Miller said NAFTA has allowed manufacturers in the three countries of the pact to work together to cut costs and compete with competitors from lower-cost sections of the world. Hover, he said there is a key problem and that is worker training in this industrial environment as it becomes ever more technical.

"Never hear the man mention Google, Amazon. They're sort of the leading edge of the U.S. economy, which, frankly, has some problems, like no agreements on digital trade," said Miller, "and there are a lot of problems in Europe mostly because Europe doesn't have any champions to compete against them, so it's using its tax policy to try to restrain the U.S. champions."