As the Trump Administration looks to gut, or just possibly renegotiate portions of the 23-year-old trade agreement with Mexico and Canada known as NAFTA, I point you toa 2015 piece from NPR's food blog discussing a notable benefit that Americans have enjoyed from the deal without necessarily realizing it. The agreement, signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994, "unleashed a dizzying array of market forces on agriculture," they report, not only giving US farmers new bigger markets in which to sell their crops, but also giving Americans cheaper and more plentiful produce year-round. Another nice side-effect of the deal: Mexico turned into a huge exporter of beer, with cervezas in fact being the country's largest agricultural export to the US.
In 2013 alone, we apparently bought some two million tons of Coronas, Modelos, and Tecates from Mexico, and what was once a specialty treat you'd only find in Southern California, a Corona with lime is now commonplace in bars from Boston to Duluth.
And that's another thing: limes. Florida used to be America's primary source of limes, but as Time reported during 2014's lime shortage, that all changed not because of NAFTA, though concurrent with NAFTA, largely because Florida's lime trees were decimated by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. While the US's demand for limes was only growing (we now consume 10 times as many limes as we did in 1980), Florida took about seven years to reestablish their lime crops, and in that time Mexico stepped in to fill the void, with cheap limes thanks to the trade deal. Florida limes could have made a comeback were it not for a small outbreak of citrus canker, a deadly tree disease that caused much of the newly replanted lime crop to be destroyed on the state's orders, lest the disease spread by wind and rain to valuable orange and grapefruit orchards. Thus we ended up with a nationwide shortage on limes and some astronomical prices on Mexican limes in the spring of 2014, when several factors including weather and disease ravaged Mexico's crop.
Under NAFTA, the US now imports twice as much fruit and three times as many vegetables from Mexico and Canada than we did twenty years ago, with half of our avocados, a fifth of our watermelons, and many millions of bushels of berries all coming from south of the border, helping even the most down-market supermarkets in the chilliest states carry strawberries at all times of the year.
This is all information from a February 2015 report on twenty years of NAFTA's impacts from the USDA. And while we can talk for days about the deal's benefits, and the ways in which it's made food and other goods more affordable for American consumers, there are negative impacts that Trump and his camp will talk about for months to come, including the loss of some US manufacturing jobs jobs that some economists will say would probably have left the country anyway, NAFTA or not.
As the New York Times explains in this analysis, "NAFTA may have increased overall G.D.P. and average incomes in the United States but at the same time contributed to the decline in well-paying U.S. manufacturing jobs that tended to be concentrated in certain cities and among certain groups of people, mostly blue-collar men."
And for all of Trump's big talk, making a rash decision and declaring the US's withdrawal from NAFTA would cause major, immediate problems for the US auto industry, corn farmers, and many vital areas of our economy. And such a symbolic move doesn't guarantee job creation either when all these industries have been doing business symbiotically with Canada and Mexico for over two decades, not to mention outsourcing all kinds of labor to China, Malaysia, and beyond during that same period.
More likely is that Trump will get Mexico and Canada back to the bargaining table and alter certain parts of the deal. But if Tecate is your cheap beer of choice, you better call your congressperson, because it might not be for much longer.