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Arkansas trade director testifies to USTR at NAFTA hearing

June 26, 2017 – Melvin Torres, Director of Western Hemisphere Trade for the World Trade Center Arkansas traveled to Washington D.C. on Tuesday to testify on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The NAFTA hearings took place before the Office of the United States Trade Representative.

Torres presented the needs of Arkansas companies and explained how NAFTA has largely benefited the state’s economy at the NAFTA hearings.

The World Trade Center Arkansas submitted a NAFTA testimony on behalf of more than 150 Arkansas companies on June 15 to the USTR. This testimony was compiled from data collected by a survey released by the World Trade Center Arkansas in late May. After compiling this data, the USTR invited the World Trade Center Arkansas to testify in a public hearing in Washington D.C. as the federal government modernizes NAFTA.

“NAFTA has been extremely beneficial to Arkansas. We are in a unique position compared to other states of the nation as we export twice as much as we import with both partners,” Torres said. “The trade agreement has enabled Canada and Mexico to become our largest trading partners. It has led to the creation of nearly 60,000 jobs in Arkansas and currently supports nearly 100,000 jobs.”

From May 15 – 18, Torres went to Washington D.C. with several Arkansas leaders. These included Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin and Angela Marshall-Hofmann, who served as former trade counsel for the U.S. Senate Finance Committee and has extensive experience in the negotiation and congressional passage of trade agreements.  Martin and Marshall-Hofmann were present for trade advocacy and support.

“We have a unique opportunity to participate in the NAFTA modernization process at the NAFTA hearings,” Marshall-Hofmann said. “We can ensure continued cross-border access for U.S. goods and services as well as seek new terms that reduce cost, speed up delivery and simplify the way we do business with our most important trading partners.”

The group met with multiple agencies including the International Trade Administration, the USTR, the Ambassador of Mexico Geronimo Gutierrez, the Embassy of Canada’s trade staff and other trade officials.

“We tried to emphasize Arkansas’ unique position within NAFTA,” Torres said. “We are one of the few states that has a positive trade balance with both countries. In fact, Arkansas exports hundreds of millions of dollars more in goods and services to Canada and Mexico than we import from them. We have seen an incredible 700 percent increase in our exports to Mexico since NAFTA began. Furthermore, exports from Arkansas to Mexico are growing 3.6 times faster than exports to any other country. Our state’s success can be a model for the rest of the country.”

When the group from Arkansas presented this information to the USTR, the World Trade Center Arkansas was subsequently referred to as the success example of middle-America during the policy negotiations. Upon their return to Arkansas, the Center created a NAFTA survey to gather information on the needs and benefits to Arkansas companies.

Torres’ trip to Washington D.C. this week was to present the findings of the World Trade Center Arkansas survey and to testify on NAFTA’s benefits to Arkansas at the USTR NAFTA hearings. He also requested specific needs from Arkansas businesses for the modernization of the agreement.

The mission of the World Trade Center Arkansas is to grow trade and increase Arkansas exports by connecting Arkansas businesses to the world through international trade services. For more information and valuable updates, please follow the Center on Facebook and Twitter, or subscribe to the World Trade Center Arkansas newsletter.

You can watch Torres’ testimony below.