Billions at Stake in Virginia as Congress Debates International Trade

Apr 9, 2019

Credit AP Photo / Marco Ugarte

International trade is playing an increasing role in Virginia’s economy, which means that a debate about to take place in Congress could have dramatic consequences for the Commonwealth.

Ever since NAFTA was implemented back in the early 1990s, jobs in Virginia supported by international trade have increased almost 100%. More than one of five jobs in the Commonwealth are now linked to international trade.

“The numbers in Virginia on this show how important trade really is at the community level,” says Paul Delaney with the Business Roundtable, a business group that supports the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement currently being considered by Congress.

“And, usually the small businesses start trading with our neighbors, Canada and Mexico," he says.

"So as we work to preserve and strengthen this relationship with our North American trading partners, there are real benefits and opportunities for the Virginia community.”

Stuart Malawer at George Mason University says those benefits and opportunities could be at risk now that the Trump administration is pushing modifications to NAFTA.

“That’s actually just a just a part of the greater Trump trade policy agenda, which has been generally I would say very restrictive and has caused many countries to impose retaliatory tariffs," says Malawer.

"That means reducing exports from the Commonwealth.”

That could end up being a serious hit to the Virginia economy. In 2017 alone, according to the Business Roundtable, Virginia exported more than $6 billion in goods and services to Canada and Mexico.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.