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Cheat Sheet: NAFTA’s Mixed Track Record Since 1994

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Cheat Sheet: NAFTA's Mixed Track Record Since 1994

NAFTA’s Mixed Track Record

Cheat sheet sums up the results of North American trade since 1994

The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.

On January 1, 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) officially came into effect, virtually eliminating all tariffs and trade restrictions between the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Bill Clinton, who lobbied extensively to get the deal done, said it would encourage other nations to work towards a broader world-trade pact. “NAFTA means jobs. American jobs, and good-paying American jobs,” said Clinton, as he signed the document, “If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t support this agreement.”

Ross Perot had a contrary perspective. Lobbying heavily against the agreement, he noted that if it was ratified, Americans would hear a giant “sucking sound” as jobs went south of the border to Mexico.

It’s a Complicated World

Fast forward 20 years, and NAFTA is a hot-button issue again. Donald Trump has said he is working on “renegotiating” the agreement, and many Americans are sympathetic to this course of action.

However, coming to a decisive viewpoint on NAFTA’s success or failure can be difficult to achieve. Over two decades, the economic and political landscape has changed. China has risen and created a surplus of cheap labor, technology has changed massively, and central banks have kept the spigots on with QE and ultra-low interest rates. Deciphering what results have been the direct cause of NAFTA – and what is simply the result of a fast-changing world – is not quite straightforward.

In today’s chart, we break down a variety of metrics on the U.S., Canada, and Mexico to give a “before” and “after” story. The result is a mixed bag, but it will at least paint a picture of how the nations have fared comparatively since the agreement came into effect in 1994.

NAFTA: A Mixed Track Record

On the plus side, NAFTA created the world’s largest free trade area of 450 million people, where trade between the three members quadrupled from $297 billion to $1.14 trillion during the period of 1993-2015.

Further, the agreement likely had the effect of lowering prices for consumers, especially for food, automobiles, clothing, and electronics. It also reduced U.S. reliance on oil from OPEC. In 1994, the United States got 59% of its oil imports from OPEC, but that number is reduced to 44% today as trade with Canada has ramped up. Canada is now the #1 source of foreign oil in the United States.

NAFTA has also unequivocally led to the movement of auto jobs. While the amount of autos manufactured in North America has increased from 12.5 million (1990) to 18.1 million (2016), the share of that production has shifted.

North American Auto Production by Share

YearCanadaMexicoUSATotal Car/Trucks Produced in North America
199016%6%78%12.5 million
200717%13%70%15.4 million
201613%20%67%18.1 million

Mexico now produces 20% of all vehicles in North America – and U.S./Canadian shares have shifted down accordingly over the years. The ultimate result is the destruction of hundreds of thousands of jobs in both Michigan and Ontario, Canada.

As a final note, we also looked at comparing macroeconomic indicators from 1980-1993 (“Pre-NAFTA”) with those from 1994-2016 (“Post-NAFTA”).

For the U.S. in particular, here’s what has changed:

MetricPre-NAFTA (1980-1993)Post-NAFTA (1994-2016)Change
Avg. Real GDP Growth2.8%2.5%-0.3%
Avg. Unemployment Rate7.1%5.9%-1.2%
Annual Growth in Exports5.7%4.9%-0.9%
Annual Growth in GDP per Capita (PPP)5.9%3.3%-2.6%
Average Gini Coefficient (Inequality)34.237.43.2

This is not intended to be a comprehensive analysis, but it gives a snapshot of what has changed since NAFTA was ratified.

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Automotive

Visualizing EV Sales Around the World

With global sales hitting new milestones and adoption rates rising, are electric vehicles now becoming a mainstream option for drivers around the world?

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electric vehicle sales

It took five years to sell the first million electric cars. In 2018, it took only six months.

The Tesla Model 3 also passed a significant milestone in 2018, becoming the first electric vehicle (EV) to crack the 100,000 sales mark in a single year. The Nissan LEAF and BAIC EC-Series are both likely to surpass the 100,000 this year as well.

Although the electric vehicle market didn’t grow as fast as some experts initially projected, it appears that EV sales are finally hitting their stride around the world. Below are the countries where electric vehicles are a biggest part of the sales mix.

Electric vehicle sales

The EV Capital of the World

Norway, after amassing a fortune through oil and gas extraction, made the conscious decision to create incentives for its citizens to purchase electric vehicles. As a result, the country is the undisputed leader in EV adoption.

In 2018, a one-third of all passenger vehicles were fully electric, and that percentage is only expected to increase in the near future. The Norwegian government has even set the ambitious target of requiring all new cars to be zero-emission by 2025.

That enthusiasm for EVs is spilling over to other countries in the region, which are also seeing a high percentage of EV sales. However, the five countries in which EVs are the most popular – Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Netherlands, and Finland – only account for 0.5% of the world’s population. For EV adoption to make any real impact on global emissions, drivers in high-growth/high–population countries will need to opt for electric powered vehicles. (Of course power grids will need to get greener as well, but that’s another topic.)

China’s Supercharged Impact

One large economy that is embracing plug-in vehicles is China.

The country leads the world in electric vehicle sales, with over a million new vehicles hitting the roads in 2018. Last year, more EVs were sold in Shenzhen and Shanghai than any country in the world, with the exception of the United States.

China also leads the world in another important metric – charging stations. Not only does China have the highest volume of chargers, many of them allow drivers to charge up faster.

Electric vehicle charging stations

Accelerating from the Slow Lane

In the United States, electric vehicle sales are rising, but they still tend to be highly concentrated in specific areas. In around half of states, EVs account for fewer than 1% of vehicle sales. On the other hand, California is approaching the 10% mark, a significant milestone for the most populous state.

Nationally, EV sales increased throughout 2018, with December registering nearly double the sales volume of the same month in 2017. Part of this surge in sales is driven by the Tesla’s Model 3, which led the market in the last quarter of 2018.

U.S. Electric vehicle sales

North of the border, in Canada, the situation is similar. EV sales are increasing, but not fast enough to meet targets set by the government. Canada aimed to have half a million EVs on the road by 2018, but missed that target by around 400,000 vehicles.

The big question now is whether the recent surge in sales is a temporary trend driven by government subsidies and showmanship of Elon Musk, or whether EVs are now becoming a mainstream option for drivers around the world.

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Automotive

How Much Copper is in an Electric Vehicle?

Have you ever wondered how much copper is in an electric vehicle? This infographic shows the metal’s properties as well as the quantity of copper used.

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How Much Copper is in an Electric Vehicle?

Copper’s special relationship with electricity has been apparent since ship designers first regularly began installing copper to protect the masts of wooden ships from lightning in the early 19th century.

Today, of course, you might be more used to seeing copper’s electrical applications through the use of power lines, telephone wires, and wiring in practically every major home appliance you own.

Millions of tons get used for these applications every year, but it is still early days for copper’s use in electrification. That’s because copper will continue to be a critical component of the green energy revolution, thanks to the rising adoption of battery-powered vehicles.

Why Copper?

Today’s visualization comes to us from Canadian Platinum Corp., and it focuses on showing how much copper is in an electric vehicle, along with the properties that make it the ideal choice for an EV-powered future.

Here is why copper is a crucial component to vehicle manufacturers:

Cost
Copper costs roughly $0.20 per ounce, compared to silver ($15/oz) and gold ($1200/oz), making it by far the cheapest option for electrical wire.

Conductivity:
Copper is nearly as conductive as silver – the most conductive metal – but comes at a fraction of the cost.

Ductility:
Copper can easily be shaped into wire, which is important for most electrical applications.

It’s also important to note that temperature does not affect copper’s conductivity, which makes the metal ideal for automobiles in all climates.

Copper in Gas vs. Electric Vehicles

The UBS Evidence Lab tore apart a traditional gas-powered vehicle as well as an EV to compare the different quantities of raw materials used.

What they found was crucial: there is 80% more copper in a Chevrolet Bolt, in comparison to a similar-sized Volkswagen Golf.

The major reason for this is that at the heart of every EV is an electric motor, which is built with copper, steel, and permanent magnets (rare earths). Electric motors tend to be much simpler than gas-powered engines, which have hundreds of moving parts.

Incredibly, in an electric motor, there can be more than a mile of copper wiring inside the stator.

The More Electric, the More Copper

According to Copper.org, along the scale from gas-powered cars to fully electrical vehicles, copper use increases dramatically.

Conventional gas-powered cars contain 18 to 49 lbs. of copper while a battery-powered EV contains 183 lbs. Meanwhile, for a fully electrical bus, a whopping 814 lbs. of copper is needed.

With the rapidly increasing adoption of electric vehicles, copper will be an essential material for the coming electrification of all forms of ground transport.

Copper is at the heart of the electric vehicle and the world will need more. By 2027, copper demand stemming from EVs is expected to increase by 1.7 million tonnes, which is a number just shy of China’s entire copper production in 2017.

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