Ambassador Carla Hills, US Trade Representative for President George H.W. Bush and chief NAFTA negotiator
Michael K. Young, President, Texas A&M University
Alejandrina Salcedo Cisneros, Director of Economic Measurement, Banco de Mexico
Jesus Cañas, Senior Business Economist, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
Raymond Robertson, Professor, Bush School of Government and Public Service (moderator)
On Wednesday, November 15, 2017, the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs in collaboration with the Mosbacher Institute for Trade, Economics, and Public Policy, welcomed Ambassador Carla A. Hills to share her insights on the North American Free Trade Agreement’s strengths, weaknesses, and ways forward in the modern economy. Ambassador Hills served as United States Trade Representative from 1989 to 1993 as a member of George H. W. Bush’s cabinet, negotiating and concluding the North American Free Trade Agreement. The program began with a welcome from Professor Andrew Natsios, Director of the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs, who remarked on the importance of trade and acknowledged tensions about trade in the current administration. Professor Natsios then presented two brief videos to frame the evening’s discussion of NAFTA’s past, present, and future. The first showed President George H. W. Bush in 1998 supporting the benefits of free trade; the second was a recording of President Donald Trump criticizing the trade agreement at a 2017 rally in Arizona.
After the videos, Professor Lori Taylor, Director of the Mosbacher Institute, took the stage to introduce Carla A. Hills with a description of her background and illustrious career in trade negotiation, after which Ambassador Hills took her place behind the podium. Hills’ talk began with an overview of the benefits that emerged from free trade among Canada, Mexico, and the United States since NAFTA’s initial implementation, including the creation of a multi-trillion dollar trade market with positive effects on consumers, businesses, and national security in all three countries. Hills also explored possibilities for improvements to the agreement, particularly updated provisions to reflect modern developments in digital information technology, ecommerce, and energy. Closing with a call to action, Hills encouraged the audience to share with others the benefits of free trade, in an attempt to correct what she identified as misinformed criticism of NAFTA. A copy of her remarks can be found at https://bush.tamu.edu/scowcroft/papers/nafta/.
The second segment of the program began with Dr. Taylor inviting other trade specialists to the stage for a panel discussion moderated by Bush School professor Dr. Raymond Robertson. Dr. Taylor introduced the panelists as they took their seats onstage with Ambassador Hills and Dr. Robertson: Michael K. Young, President of Texas A&M University; Alejandrina Salcedo Cisneros, Director of Economic Measurement, Banco de Mexico; and Jesus Cañas, Senior Business Economist, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Dr. Robertson led the conversation among the four guests, moving from President Young’s own recollections of NAFTA negotiations to Dr. Cisneros’ perspective on how NAFTA has strengthened both the United States and Mexico as production partners, not only trade partners. Mr. Cañas gave his perspective on the effects of NAFTA on the Texas economy in particular, including job production and trade for the state. Ambassador Hills contributed to the conversation as well, reiterating remarks from her presentation that emphasized NAFTA’s role in creating work for all North Americans. The four guests agreed that NAFTA was important for the three countries involved and shared their hope that the United States not only would continue to support the agreement but also would contribute to updating the agreement to account for new economic realities. As the evening came to a close, Dr. Taylor approached the podium for a final time to thank the panel participants for their contributions to a fruitful and engaging discussion and the members of the audience for their attendance.