When the Miami Herald‘s Andres Oppenheimer interviewed Mexican President Felipe Calderon last week, he was surprised to hear Calderon defend NAFTA by stressing how abandoning the treaty would hurt the U.S.:

Contrary to Obama’s claim that NAFTA has hurt American workers by moving U.S. jobs to Mexico, Calderón said that the free-trade deal has brought about more investment, and better-quality products and lower prices for consumers both in the United States and Mexico. He immediately addressed the possible consequences of a renegotiation of NAFTA for the United States.

Big U.S. companies such as General Motors, which have plants in Mexico from where they export car parts to the United States duty-free under the NAFTA deal, would have to pay import duties for their supplies if the trade agreement were revised. That would not only increase car prices in the United States but make it harder for U.S. automakers to sell their vehicles in Europe and Asia, Mexican officials say.

A new report by the World Economic Forum, titled The Enabling Trade Index 2008, is already showing some signs of alarm about U.S. export competitiveness. The United States is ranked 14th among 118 countries, behind Hong Kong, Sweden, Canada and Germany, among other countries that benefit from preferential trade deals with their respective neighbors.