But while Mexico is “beating us economically” on trade, imports were not the only ones responsible for the real growth in trade in goods of 264% from 1993 to 2016. Real exports to Mexico more than tripled over this period, increasing by 213%. However, they outpaced imports with 317%. Some small businesses have been directly affected by NAFTA. In the past, large companies still had an advantage over small ones because large companies could afford to build and maintain offices and/or manufacturing facilities in Mexico, bypassing many of the old export trade restrictions. In addition, pre-NAFTA laws required U.S. service providers who wanted to do business in Mexico to establish a physical presence there, which was simply too expensive for small businesses. Small businesses were stuck, they couldn`t afford to build, nor could they afford export tariffs. NAFTA levelled the playing field by allowing small businesses to export to Mexico at the same cost as large companies and by eliminating the requirement that a company establish a physical presence in Mexico to do business there. The lifting of these restrictions meant that huge new markets were suddenly opened up to small businesses that previously operated only in the United States. This was seen as particularly important for small businesses that were producing goods or services that had matured in U.S.
markets. NAFTA has increased trade flows across North American borders. According to information published on the NAFTA Now intergovernmental website, “merchandise trade between NAFTA partners has more than tripled since NAFTA entered into force, reaching $946.1 billion in 2008.” Overall, NAFTA has not been devastating or transformative for the Canadian economy. Opponents of the 1988 Free Trade Agreement warned that Canada would become a glorified 51st state.