Kansas and the United States would benefit from a free-trade agreement with Mexico, the state secretary of agriculture said today.
Sam Brownback, who has led the state's Agriculture Department since 1986, said the North American Free Trade Agreement would create 130,000 net jobs in the United States and open up agriculture markets for Kansas farmers. The agreement "would create the world's largest trading block" with a combined $6 trillion gross national product among the United States, Canada and Mexico, he said.
Brownback, who spent a year in the U.S. Trade Representatives office in Washington, D.C., presented his remarks to a gathering of local business people and officials in a speech sponsored by Kansas International at Alvamar Country Club. Kansas International is an independent, non-profit organization that fosters business relationships between Kansas companies and international businesses.
A free-trade agreement between the United States and Canada already exists, Brownback said. Bringing Mexico into the fold would further open U.S. export markets, he said.
BROWNBACK said that when Mexico agreed to more trade with the United States in 1986, U.S. exports to Mexico "exploded" from $12.4 billion to $28.4 billion in the next four years. The state has assisted Kansans exporting pure-bred livestock to Mexico for several years, he said, and now Kansas businesses sell agricultural equipment and Christmas trees to the country.
Other areas of the Kansas economy that would benefit from the agreement include its electronics and aviation sectors, he said.
A possible downside to the deal could be the General Motors plant in Kansas City, Kan., Brownback said. The plant could lose labor-intensive jobs, such as the wiring assembly work for shoulder harness devices, to Mexico, although the final assembly and production likely would be completed in the United States.
Brownback credited a recent study by the Institute for International Economics for the 130,000 net jobs figure. He said the same study showed 112,000 workers would lose their jobs and require retraining.
BROWNBACK doubts Congress will approve the agreement this year but said it stands at least a 75 percent chance of approval next year since President Bush and the leading Democratic presidential contender, Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas, favor the deal.
Trade opportunities abound globally, Brownback said, and an agreement with Mexico could lead to agreements with Central and South America. The former Soviet Union can best be approached through trade groups, Brownback said.