20 years later: NAFTA still grounds for debate in San Antonio

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by Brian New / KENS 5

kens5.com

Posted on October 8, 2012 at 6:56 PM

SAN ANTONIO -- Twenty years ago this week, President George H.W. Bush met in San Antonio with Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Mexican President Carlos Salinas to symbolically sign the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Today, however, it's debatable whether the United States is better off since NAFTA was passed.

While the economies of all three countries have benefited from the agreement, critics point out the U.S. has lost thousands of manufacturing jobs to Mexico.

On Monday, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff unveiled a plaque commemorating the signing.

Wolff, who was San Antonio’s mayor at the time, was instrumental in bringing the signing to San Antonio.

"We've all grown jobs,” Wolff said, reflecting back on the 20 years since the signing. “We certainly have in San Antonio, being one of the leading cities in the United States in terms of unemployment and job creation. I think a good part of that is because of NAFTA."

The trade agreement has helped some local companies, like H-E-B, expand into Mexico. In the past 15 years, H-E-B was opened 44 stores in Mexico which generate more than $1 billion in annual sales.

On the flip side, Mexican coffee chain giant Café Punta del Cielo has also benefited from NAFTA. Four months ago, the company opened its first store in the U.S. in downtown San Antonio.

Wolff said the Mexican company plans to expand to other states using San Antonio as its U.S. headquarters.

The Mexican coffee company, Wolff said, is just the latest example of how NAFTA thrust San Antonio into the global market –- for better or worse.

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