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The White House announced Monday it had reached a preliminary agreement with Mexico to rework major portions of the North American Free Trade Agreement. The details of the possible final deal, and whether Canada will join the talks, remain in question.

Matthew Murray is director of UT's Howard H. Baker Center for Public Policy and associate director of the university's Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research
Matt Murray

Matt Murray, director of the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy and assistant director of the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research, is available talk about the implications of these trade negotiations and the impact they could have on industries and workers in Tennessee and the rest of the country.

How important is it for Tennesseans and the rest of the country that the U.S. reach a deal and that Canada is part of that deal?

“A renewed NAFTA trade accord is critical to the Tennessee economy, especially the automotive sector. In 2017, Canada and Mexico together accounted for $13.7 billion of exports from Tennessee, swamping China ($2.5 billion) and Japan ($2 billion). Much of this north-south trade is related to the state’s transportation equipment sector where Tennesseans make parts and assemble final automobiles.”

How do these negotiations impact industries and workers in Tennessee?

“Tariffs and threats of a trade war have damaged expectations and created considerable uncertainty for investors, producers, and workers. The unresolved and often contentious negotiations have aggravated the problem. A new agreement would create certainty and allow markets to return to their path of development.”

What is the significance of Monday’s announcement and where are negotiations likely to go from here?

“This is great news in the sense that broad agreement has been reached. But Canada needs to be at the table. Until a final resolution is reached, markets will continue to be characterized by uncertainty, which can translate into delated decision-making and investment.”


Megan Boehnke (865-974-3242,