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For immediate release: December 18, 2006

TN Visas Could Serve as Model For Guest Worker Plan, Says Dallas Fed Report

Also, Texas Port Business Growing, Milton Friedman Remembered and Northern Louisiana Economy Prospers

DALLAS—The TN Visa program, rapid growth of Texas ports, a conversation with Milton Friedman and Northern Louisiana’s prospering economy are featured in the latest issue of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas’ Southwest Economy.

In “TN Visas: A Stepping Stone Toward a NAFTA Labor Market,” senior economist and policy advisor Pia Orrenius finds that a modified version of the NAFTA TN Visa program could serve as a model for a guest worker plan, boosting U.S. economic growth and efficiency and reducing illegal immigration.

High-skilled workers from Canada and Mexico currently may be granted TN status if they have job offers from U.S. employers. The TN Visa process is timely, transparent and low cost. Orrenius asserts a similar system could work for low-skilled workers from NAFTA countries.

The temporary and work-based nature of the visa would ensure procyclical labor flows and discourage permanency and welfare use among workers, she writes.

Currently, most TN workers are Canadians. High-skilled Mexican workers have been less likely to use TN Visas, probably due to educational and institutional differences, and the language barrier, according to Orrenius.

International trade flowing through Texas ports has escalated rapidly in recent years and is likely to continue growing at strong rates, write economic analyst José Joaquín López and senior economist and policy advisor Keith R. Phillips in “Full Steam Ahead for Texas Ports."

The value of trade processed through Texas ports has more than doubled in the past decade, growing at twice the national average. Houston and Laredo have been the fastest growing among the nation’s 10 largest ports.

While Laredo serves mainly Mexico, Houston’s port has played a significant role in handling trade from Venezuela, Nigeria, China, the U.K., Germany and Saudi Arabia, Lopez and Phillips write.

They also found that the D/FW port district ranked second among the nation’s 42 districts in growth over the past nine years. Additionally, the share of trade value with China going through the D/FW port has more than tripled.

“As they develop, inland ports could play a larger role in making Texas an efficient place to process imports and exports,” the authors write.

Excerpts from president and CEO Richard W. Fisher’s 2005 conversation with Milton Friedman, who died in November, are featured in “An Appreciation of Milton Friedman: Champion of Economic Freedom.”

On China, he tells Fisher, “I do not believe that China can continue to move as it has been moving … with its wholly, fully centralized government.”

Addressing government spending, Friedman says, “We would be much better off if we could cut down on that spending. Most entitlements, in my opinion, are not justified.”

Tackling the issue of trade, Friedman states, “The best thing that we in the United States could do, there’s no question in my mind, would be unilateral free trade.”

Discussing a free trade agreement between the United States and several Central American and Caribbean countries, he questions, “You get free trade on a thousand pages of rules and regulations? It’s the opposite of free trade.”

Video clips of Fisher’s conversation with Friedman and other information about the Nobel laureate can be found on the Dallas Fed’s web site at

In “Louisiana Metro Prospers with Diversified Economy,” assistant economist Laila Assanie and senior economic analyst Bryan Macktinger explain how the Shreveport-Bossier City area’s diverse economy and impressive job growth rate are driven by the region’s ability to attract a wide variety of government and private industry.

Innovative industries, like biomedical research, along with established institutions, like Barksdale Air Force Base and the Port of Shreveport-Bossier, have pumped a significant amount of jobs and money into the local economy, according to Assanie and Macktinger. Casinos also have boosted the area’s economy.

“If the metro can continue to attract new industries and opportunities for its residents, it should continue to do at least as well as the nation as a whole,” they write.

Find the November/December issue of Southwest Economy at


Media contact:
James Hoard
Phone: (214) 922-5307