20 Years of NAFTA: Looking Back to Look Forward

Updated 1/4/14

January 1, 2014 marks the 20 year anniversary of the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) among the United States, Canada, and Mexico. This New Year’s Eve, as we reflect on the past year and look ahead to the next, we also take the opportunity to reflect on the success of the past 20 years of NAFTA and look forward to the possibility it has created. If these three nations continue to build upon the growth and strengthening relationships NAFTA has begun, the next 20 years hold immense promise for a competitive North American Region.

NAFTA formed the world’s largest free trade area, including 450 million people and producing $17 trillion worth of goods and services. Since 1994, U.S. trade with Canada and Mexico has more than tripled to $1.2 trillion, and they are the U.S.’s first and second export markets, accounting for about a third of all U.S. Exports. While some sectors have benefited more than others, an estimated additional 5 million U.S. jobs were supported by the increase of trade generated by NAFTA. Since 1993, GDP in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico has grown more than that of industrialized nations as a whole, about 53%, increasing by 63%, 66%, and 65% respectively.

While NAFTA was negotiated in 1992 under Republican President George H. W. Bush, it was ratified under Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1993. This bipartisan implementation of a shared national and international agenda offers a beacon of hope for the future. In 2014 the Obama administration will continue to work on immigration reform and the Trans Pacific Partnership. These items will shape not only Obama’s second term, but the future of North American community. As he engages with Congress, the President should draw on NAFTA’s bipartisan legacy of ambitious forward thinking and regional partnership to strengthen the United States and the North American region in the 21st Century.

The following resources may be useful for more information on what NAFTA has accomplished so far:

Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Credit: Danny DeBelius, Emily Siner / NPR