Wicker: House and Senate should strike while iron is hot on trade

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(Report provided by U.S. Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi)

During the 2016 election, President Donald Trump promised to improve America’s trade deals. He surprised his skeptics and vindicated his supporters by keeping that promise a year ago and negotiating the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), a much-needed update to the Clinton-era North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

In the months since it was negotiated, Mexico has ratified USMCA. My colleagues on Capitol Hill should move immediately to push USMCA over the finish line by sending it to President Trump’s desk for his signature. This would demonstrate to Canada how serious America is about improving our trading relationships, motivating our neighbors to the north to take up USMCA themselves and finalize the deal.

Why USMCA Matters

America sells twice as much to countries with which we have trade agreements compared to those we do not. Ratifying USMCA with Canada and Mexico would pave the way for greater exports around the globe. This administration advanced America’s trade relationships with Japan recently at the G-7 meeting, expanding markets for our products in East Asia. Our negotiators are working to hold China accountable for its unfair and illegal practices. But USMCA remains America’s greatest trade opportunity for economic growth.

Canada and Mexico are our nation’s most important trading partners. Our relationships with them touch on every sector of our nation’s economy, supporting 12 million American jobs and more than $500 billion worth of exports. Mississippi’s exports to Canada and Mexico in 2018 were valued at $2.2 billion and $1.2 billion respectively, mostly in manufacturing areas like transportation equipment, electronics, and machinery. That sum represented more than $1,000 in economic activity for every man, woman, and child in our state.

The International Trade Commission expects the nation-wide economic impact of USMCA to be enormous. Its provisions for American agriculture alone, including dairy, poultry, and eggs, would be a $2.2 billion win. In total, the new trade deal would create $68 billion in growth and 176,000 good-paying jobs.

USMCA’s benefits would extend far beyond our continent. A more unified North America with better ties to friendly nations like Japan would be a more challenging competitor for China. This would improve the potential outcomes of President Trump’s conversations with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

With so much at stake, it is vital that our trade agreements be updated correctly. NAFTA was a successful framework for a time, but it is showing its age. Though the 25-year-old treaty was the first of its kind to cover issues like intellectual property, the global economy has changed since 1994. For example, digital trade and e-commerce were in their infancies when the current rules were put in place. American workers deserve better market access and stronger protections from players who would try to take advantage of outdated laws. USMCA would deliver on both fronts.

A Win for All Americans

Even the Washington Post endorsed USMCA. The paper’s editorial board wrote last month that the agreement would be “a real improvement over the status quo.” They went on to urge House Democrats – including many who have already said they approve of the new agreement – to take up USMCA without delay.

Passing USMCA would be a major accomplishments for the 116th Congress. At a time when political infighting has consumed much of official Washington, it would show real policy progress and a win for all Americans. It would be a mistake for the House and Senate to let this moment pass and leave America’s workers without a 21st century trade agreement.

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