WASHINGTON—Trade groups representing U.S.-based vehicle makers, parts suppliers and dealers have formed a coalition to lobby for the preservation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which it said has "played a key role in the growth and vitality of the U.S. auto industry."
Members of the coalition do not believe it is right to change the game in the middle of a comeback, according to a statement from the Driving American Jobs coalition, which comprises members of the American Automotive Policy Council, American International Automobile Dealers Association, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, Association of Global Automakers and Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association.
The coalition is cautioning that a "diminished NAFTA endangers the success and competitiveness of our industry, reverses our manufacturing comeback, and places many jobs in the auto sector at risk."
"American auto makers are driving the revival of American manufacturing," said Matt Blunt, former governor of Missouri and president of the AAPC.
"When you examine the data, there's no question that NAFTA has helped advance the global competitiveness of the U.S. auto industry sector. Now we have an opportunity to strengthen North America as a manufacturing powerhouse with a modern NAFTA that maintains the features that are working and makes improvements to benefit American workers and jobs.
Blunt said the coalition members look forward to working with the Trump administration, members of Congress and all stakeholders to ensure American autos remain competitive in our global economy.
The coalition argues that NAFTA enhances the U.S.'s global competitiveness through the elimination of tariffs and other barriers to trade and investment and that a diminished NAFTA endangers the success and competitiveness of the industry, reverses the manufacturing comeback under way and places many jobs in the auto sector at risk.
"NAFTA continues to spur innovation and support high-paying U.S. jobs," said John Bozzella, president and CEO of the AGM, "[jobs that] belong to hardworking Americans across the country who support their families and communities by working for auto manufacturers across the United States."
The coalition states that the U.S. auto industry comprises more than 7 million jobs.
While NAFTA has been in effect, the coalition said, domestic and international manufacturers and suppliers have invested hundreds of billions of dollars in new and renovated U.S. facilities and job creation. Additionally, dealers and other retailers employ hundreds of thousands of workers.
U.S.-based vehicle makers produced 1 million more cars in 2016 than in 1993, the year before NAFTA took effect, the coalition said. Many economists agree that withdrawing from NAFTA would re-establish trade barriers that will hurt the U.S. economy and cost jobs.
"Our biggest concern is for American workers and customers," said Jennifer Thomas, vice president of federal affairs at the AAM. "Pulling out of NAFTA would lead to a decrease in vehicle production, a decline in jobs and an increase in what our customers spend when buying a new vehicle. Not to mention this would also have an impact on our abilities to export vehicles to foreign markets."
Ann Wilson, senior vice president, government affairs, for MEMA, said, "NAFTA is working by keeping American businesses competitive and hiring here in the U.S. While modernization of a 23-year old agreement is welcome, this must be done with care.
"The objective of NAFTA renegotiation must be to strengthen U.S. manufacturing competitiveness by maintaining the robust and open supply chain that has helped fuel the 19-percent increase in motor vehicle parts manufacturing jobs we have seen over the last four years."
AIADA President Cody Lusk added: "America's 1.1 million dealership employees rely on NAFTA to offer customers a wide selection of safe, affordable new cars and trucks. It's clear NAFTA is working for the towns and communities served at the 16,700 dealerships across America, and helping create more stable, skilled American jobs with each passing year."
Driving American Jobs is a coalition of automotive trade associations, manufacturers, retailers and small businesses. For more information visit drivingamericanjobs.com.