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What One Entrepreneur Is Looking for in a Renegotiated NAFTA


Ajay Kori, Founder and CEO, UrbanStems
Today, rules that govern trade among the U.S., Mexico and Canada don’t always make sense for tech companies. With renegotiation talks under way, we have an opportunity to modernize NAFTA for the 21st century economy. 

When the North American Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed in 1994, the internet was in its infancy and UrbanStems, which I cofounded in 2014, didn't exist. Today, rules that govern trade among the U.S., Mexico and Canada don't always make sense for tech companies like mine. With renegotiation talks under way, we have an opportunity to modernize NAFTA for the 21st century economy.

UrbanStems is allowing more people to send flowers by making the process better, cheaper and faster. We hand-deliver bouquets and even take a photo of the delivery so that you know it looks like what you picked and when it’s arrived. We accomplish this by owning every part of the process.

Something that isn't well known in the U.S. is that few flowers are actually grown in the United States today. In fact, more and more flower farms are being converted to more profitable crops, and we rely on foreign production to supply 75 to 85 percent of the flowers in the country.

Most of those flowers today come from Colombia and Ecuador, which means they have to be flown from Bogota or Quito to Miami, where they are then trucked to their final location. It's a huge amount of fuel and emissions to get flowers from these countries to their final destination.

Mexico and Canada also grow flowers, but almost all their production has been consumed within those countries. For the first time, we’re now importing flowers from Mexico into the U.S. And because of the proximity, we can truck them straight to their final destination without the airplane trip. It's a huge savings for consumers, while also leaving a smaller carbon footprint.

As the U.S., Canada and Mexico modernize NAFTA, they should consider how any decision could impact the supply chain, and they should put a premium on eco- and internet-friendly policies that will allow startups like mine to thrive.

Ajay Kori is cofounder of UrbanStems. To hear more from Ajay and learn more about the latest in the NAFTA renegotiation talks, vote for CTA’s SXSW panel, “Modernizing NAFTA for a Tech-Centric Economy.” Voting is open now through Aug. 25.

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