How has the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, affected the number of manufacturing plants in the United States since its enactment in 1994? It’s been a big negative, President Donald Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity during an interview in Las Vegas.
Trump, who has negotiated with both Canada and Mexico to replace the current agreement, told Hannity, "NAFTA was a disaster. We lost thousands of plants. We lost millions of jobs. NAFTA was a disaster."
We take up Trump’s statement about job losses in a separate fact-check. Here, we’ll look at the question of plants that have been lost post-NAFTA.
The United States saw a loss of more than 80,000 manufacturing establishments from 1994 through 2014.
Data from a Census Bureau series, Business Dynamics Statistics, tallied 357,330 manufacturing establishments in 1994 and 274,756 in 2014, the last year for which data is available.
Granted, it’s unlikely that every shuttered manufacturing plant owes its closure to NAFTA. Among other things, advancements in technology have revolutionized manufacturing in recent years.
But even if a small fraction of the closures stem at least in part from NAFTA, then Trump’s use of "thousands" is valid.
Trump said that since NAFTA, "we lost thousands of plants."
That's actually an understatement. The United States lost 80,000 plants since then. Not all can be blamed on NAFTA, but even if only a fraction of them can be, Trump has a point. We rate the statement Mostly True.
Editor's note, Sept. 24, 2018: PolitiFact has joined an effort with other North American fact-checkers to examine statements about trade and tariffs. Poynter.org is documenting the project; see its report for links to other fact-checks.