When President Donald Trump signed a new agreement to replace NAFTA, a lot of people who depend on borderless commerce — many of them Midwest exporters of manufactured and agricultural goods — breathed a sigh of relief. After 15 months of arduous negotiations, the specter of harmful trade barriers rising on our northern and southern borders was finally gone.
But a year later, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement has yet to come into effect. That’s mainly because the U.S. Congress has yet to approve it. The main inaction is in the House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who earlier this month said, “I would like to see it done this year,” has since indicated the House probably won’t stick to that schedule.
Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., tells us, “I think we have time, and we have bipartisan support.” What is needed, he says, is a recognition by House members that in trade deals, “you don’t get everything you want.” Compromise is the name of the game.
The new accord would preserve a free trade zone that has boosted trade, promoted economic efficiencies and lowered costs for consumers. And the USMCA includes some useful improvements over the 1994 NAFTA deal.
So let’s all agree: This trade pact isn’t perfect — as if others are. But it’s better than the status quo, and better than any plausible alternative.
Putting off approval until 2020 would make Democrats complicit in the needless trade uncertainty that Trump has created.
American farmers, whose net farm income has plunged by 50% since 2013, have enough trouble with bad weather and low prices. They don’t need the additional stress of wondering whether they’ll be able to sell to Mexico and Canada — which together bought $2.8 billion worth of Illinois’ agricultural goods last year.
USMCA also would help Midwest factory workers — and increase their numbers. The Washington Post reports that: Automakers would face the biggest changes once the new agreement takes effect. The USMCA requires more made-in-the-USA content and mandates that 40% of each vehicle be produced by workers earning $16 per hour — a provision that is likely to draw jobs away from lower-wage Mexican workers.
Fifteen months after Trump cut this deal, Midwest farmers and factory workers aren’t looking for House Democrats’ excuses. With an election looming in 2020, Democrats can either look distracted by impeachment or take the USMCA as a win.