It has been 25 years since Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and U.S. President Ronald Reagan negotiated and signed the Free Trade Agreement, resulting in duty-free movement of goods across the 49th Parallel. There is no consensus as to whether the agreement turned out to be beneficial to either or both countries, but one thing is certain, it did change the face of trade on this continent.
NAFTA followed soon after, in 1994, and some have argued its passage resulted in the loss of many jobs to Mexico. Certainly many manufacturing jobs have moved out of both the U.S. and Canada to Mexico, but the removal of protective tariffs has also resulted in greater sales of equipment (including valves) and machinery from the U.S. going to its neighbors north and south. But has it been a net gain or loss? And what effect have these agreements had on the economies of the participants in relation to each other and the rest of the world?
There is no way to know, of course, what would have happened with the economies of any of these countries had free trade not been instituted, but there does appear to be consensus that market forces, such as currency values, have a greater effect on the economies of all countries than they would have with tariffs. We are seeing this now with the rising of the Canadian dollar in comparison to the U.S. currency.
Free trade is here to stay, obviously, and even more agreements are being considered between the U.S., Canada, and the rest of the world. Does this make us more vulnerable, or somehow more insulated against the ups and downs of national economic downturns?
Also, in the long term, how does free trade affect the valve industry? Is there more opportunity for American valve, actuator and control manufacturers because of it? Has there been any effect on intellectual property rights because of it? What effect has that had on your business?
We’ve seen the effects globalization has had on the industry in terms of offshore producers coming into the U.S. In fact, next week we’re posting in our Web Features a special article tracing the effects of the influx of offshore valves back in the 1970s and how it has permanently changed the valve industry. But that is separate from free trade, and if you have noticed particular trends in how it affects your business, positive or negative, we would like to hear from you.
And how would you feel about a North American Union, much like the European Union? Some people have asserted that the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America is the first step toward such a union.