I am totally dazzled right now by the brand new Smart TV that we bought, and it got me thinking about another of the pricey toys that have long been popular with us boys. I can’t help but wonder what kind of car we’ll be driving in five years, and where might it be made?
The answer to the last part of that may depend on those NAFTA talks that will be getting underway this month. Half a century ago, Lester Pearson scored what was perhaps our greatest trade victory when he got Lyndon Johnson to agree to the Canada-U.S. AutoPact.
What a different world it was then, with almost no foreign-made vehicles sold in North America, and Canadian plants getting a guaranteed share of the vehicle business.
Donald Trump’s people are not even mentioning automobiles in their list of American objectives at the bargaining table, but it’s not hard to figure out just what is at stake. What we could see will be Canada and the U.S. forming a united front against Mexico. The key states where Trump won that election last year included Michigan and other places which have been steadily losing auto industry jobs to Mexico, along with thousands of jobs that used to employ Canadians.
Since NAFTA was signed 24 years ago, Mexican jobs in auto-making have grown to 45% of the North American industry, even though Mexico buys only 8% of the vehicles that are produced. Four assembly plants have closed in Canada since 1994, along with ten plants in the U.S, while eight new plants have opened in Mexico.
You don’t need an MBA from either Harvard or Queens to figure out one of the main reasons. Autoworkers in Mexico earn an average of four dollars an hour, compared to wages of $30 to $35 an hour in Canada and the U.S.
Oh and did I tell you, my smart TV was also assembled in Mexico?
It must be 2017.
I’m Roger Currie