By Andy Blom, TES Washington Editor
On Wednesday. January 29th, President Donald Trump signed the United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA) into law, at long last replacing the outdated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Trump called it “…the largest, most significant, modern, and balanced trade agreement in history. All of our countries will benefit greatly.”
Strong words – but no exaggeration. According to White House sources the deal has the potential to create nearly 600,000 jobs and generate up to $235 billion in new economic activity, benefitting workers in all sectors of the U.S. economy. Further, USMCA is the first U.S. trade deal to ever include a chapter supporting small and medium sized businesses.
Workers in all sectors of the economy are expected to benefit. U.S. agricultural exports are expected to increase by $2.2 billion under the new deal. Farmers and ranchers gain improved access to Canadian and Mexican markets to export their goods as Canada has agreed to expand market access for American dairy, egg, and poultry producers. Annual dairy exports are expected to grow by nearly $315 million and Canada will finally give fair treatment to American-grown wheat.
Auto workers and the American automobile industry also stand to benefit, with the agreement promising fairer, more reciprocal trade, including provisions to incentivize new investments in the American auto industry and support high-paying jobs for American auto workers. New wage and rules of origin requirements will put American autoworkers on a level playing field with workers from other countries. USMCA is expected to create up to 76,000 new auto jobs, spur $34 billion in new investment in the auto industry, and add $23 billion in auto parts purchases annually.
Other aspects of the deal are equally important: USMCA contains new protections for American intellectual property, ensuring effective protection for American innovators and creators. Also included is a first-of-its-kind chapter on digital trade, which the decades-old NAFTA was never updated to address. And USMCA includes provisions to prohibit unfair currency practices and reinforce exchange rate stability.
Last and certainly not least, the agreement includes the strongest environmental standards of any trade agreement in U.S. history. The standards are fully enforceable and are designed to help prevent companies from moving out of the United States—and taking jobs with them—as a dodge to avoid environmental rules.
Canada and Mexico are enthusiastic participants and USMCA appears to be a win/win for all of the nations participating, while delivering on a key Trump campaign promise.
However a serious question remains. All three nations signed the deal on November 30, 2018. President Trump sent USMCA to Congress months ago. This is truly a bipartisan issue. Every single member of Congress has constituents affected by the deal, and the lack of a deal. What Congress finally approved, and President Trump signed in January, is not significantly different than what he sent to Congress. So what took so long?
What kept American workers, in every state and ever district, from benefitting from this deal for so long? Those months may be the blink of an eye to Congress, but to families living day to day, to farms, ranches and businesses struggling to make it each month, that was a long painful unnecessary delay…for no reason except politics.
We hear a lot of talk about ‘The Swamp’. But if you doubt the existence, or pervasive evil of the swamp, consider this: Congress held up the USMCA, held up America’s workers, businesses, consumers and families… purely for a temporary, and largely illusory, political advantage!
We all deserve better. We all deserve an apology…and a return to some remotely civil semblance of government based on serving the public, not advancing party politics or self-interest. Let USMCA be the first step. Now, Congress, let’s see some more.
Andresen Blom is a Washington based policy and political analyst and author who has been published in The Wall Street Journal, The Hill, and Politico.