Renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement could open the door for local businesses, says Conservative Essex MP Jeff Watson.

U.S. President Barack Obama has been pushing to renegotiate the deal for years. More recently, Prime Minister Stephen Harper suggested Canada would be willing to alter the 20 year old trade deal.

Watson says Canada would have its own set of demands at the negotiating table.

He says the ability for local companies to chase U.S. government infrastructure money would be of particular interest in Windsor-Essex.

"We've been cut out of a lot of that supply chain and a lot of the stimulus measures for infrastructure for the United States," Watson said. "That would open up to our businesses, potentially, if we could secure that in an expanded NAFTA."

Watson stresses that nothing has happened, yet, on the NAFTA file but he says any new deal would mirror a recent free trade deals signed with the European Union.

'It can only work against us.' - Alfie Morgan, business professor emeritus

Alfie Morgan, a University of Windsor professor emeritus in the faculty of business, said opening the free trade deal would be bad for Canada.

"It can only work against us. We don't have much leverage to apply at this point. I think this is a very important issue and the timing couldn't be worse given American politics and the state of the American economy," he said.

Dino Chiodo, president of Unifor Local 444, which represents more than 4,000 Chrysler workers in Windsor, says opening NAFTA could mean job loss to Canada.

Chiodo fears more companies will move to Mexico.

"It's going to be bigger challenges for us because we're already losing jobs to that region because of the low wages they have there, the low costs of living, low standard of life," Chiodo said. "From that perspective, it's deteriorating our position to fight for good, decent paying jobs here in Canada."

Mexico a NAFTA winner

Mexico under NAFTA, signed in 1994, had a rough start, because of a coincidental pesos crash just as the deal was getting under way. But the country has grown into the one of the more robust emerging economies with exports of about $1 billion a day, more than 10 times what they were in 1994.

Mexico is now estimated to be the world's 13th-largest economy with total output similar to Canada's, although on a per capita basis it still lags.

Mexico has gone from a bit player in the North American auto sector to the second-largest participant with almost 20 per cent of total production, compared with Canada's 16 per cent.

Obama originally vowed to open NAFTA during his first presidential campaign. American officials have again expressed interest in opening the 20-year-old pact, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said at a function in B.C. earlier this week.

"We're interested in that as well," Harper said. "We just have to remind our friends that if we're going to open it, we're going to open it in a way that benefits both of us, not just the United States.

"The United States sometimes expresses the view that NAFTA has certain loopholes. We don't really see them that way," Harper continued.  "We happen to think this was a balanced agreement, but certainly if we can deepen it in areas like labour mobility, access of professional services and government procurement, these are big areas where - if we could open up NAFTA and expand its application - it would be very good for Canadian and American business."

With files from Canadian Press