Dilkens argues U.S. will lose if NAFTA is pulled, heading into Washington talks

Windsor’s mayor is heading to Washington D.C. this week to tout NAFTA’s benefits and participate in discussions with key U.S. legislators. He’s also bringing an important message.

Drew Dilkens to tout benefits of NAFTA for both sides of the border

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens is one of seven Canadian mayors attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors as part of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities this week in Washington D.C. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

Windsor's mayor is heading to Washington D.C. this week to tout NAFTA's benefits and participate in discussions with key U.S. legislators.

He's also bringing an important message.

"It's always worth reminding our U.S. friends that when it comes to NAFTA and the discussions that yes, Canada is a trading nation, but let us remember that 35 of 50 states in the United States call Canada the number one customer of the goods they produce," said Drew Dilkens.

Dilkens is one of seven Canadian mayors attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors as part of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. He said he plans to discuss how abolishing the current NAFTA deal will affect Windsor and parts of the U.S. business market.

"There would be huge impacts on U.S. business as well if the U.S. president decides to pull the plug on NAFTA. It is worth reminding them," he said.

Windsor's stake

Dilkens said that if NAFTA were to be pulled by the U.S. president, Windsor and Detroit would feel those effects immediately. 

"In the Windsor context the number of nurses and engineers and physicians that cross the border are about 7,000 every day ...  I would suspect that if NAFTA ended and there were no more nursing visas given to Windsor residents that U.S. hospitals just on the other side of the border in Detroit will have a very difficult time operating."

Dilkens said that many businesses in Windsor-Essex depend on the border crossing and U.S. economy at large but that if NAFTA were to be scrapped there is still another deal.

"It's difficult to understand what the immediate impact would be because as we understand it the FTA — the Free Trade Agreement that was the precursor to NAFTA — is still in effect and enforced."

Dilkens said he is looking forward to a NAFTA roundtable discussion with Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson, mayors from San Diego and Tijuana and the former Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Kergin.

"I think the extent we can get this message out that NAFTA is important, that pulling out would be devastating to all three countries... I don't think we can do that enough at this point in time."

The meetings begin in Washington on Wednesday.