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Trade agreement would create jobs, support farmers

Washington, June 26, 2019 Contact:
*Originally published in the Columbus Dispatch

After years of stagnation and slow recovery, our economy is roaring. The unemployment rate is at a 50-year low, average wages are rising and Americans are keeping more money in their pockets thanks to tax relief. But this economic momentum for American families is at risk if Congress continues to delay consideration of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

Trade with Mexico and Canada supports 12 million jobs in the United States. Here in Ohio, trade with Mexico and Canada supports 428,400 jobs. We can support these workers and add more jobs to the American economy by updating our trade agreement.

The time is long overdue to usher in a new trade agreement with our North American neighbors. American businesses and workers have been forced to operate under a 20th century trade deal unfit for our 21st century economy. The current North American trade agreement was created long before the dominance of internet commerce. Consumer behavior looks a lot different today than it did 25 years ago when our current trade agreement was established. We now live in a world where people can find and purchase products from across the world in seconds using a device in their pocket. Innovation has forced us to change the way we do business, but our current trade agreement has not kept up with the pace of innovation.

In the fall, the United States, Canada and Mexico reached an agreement to modernize and improve our North American trade agreement. Earlier this week, the Mexican Senate voted overwhelmingly to ratify the USMCA. Now the ball is in our court. It’s time for the United States Congress to act. Delaying consideration of USMCA tells our trading partners that we’re not serious about doing business with them. This is the wrong message to send. In addition, delays in considering USMCA delay important provisions that will create jobs and grow the economy. Make no mistake, delay hurts each and every American.

The USMCA modernizes our regional trade framework by establishing rules of the road for digital trade, setting the global standard on digital market access. USMCA addresses the technological landscape that has developed in the past 25 years. It also ensures that companies of all sizes and in all sectors of our economy can compete by prohibiting forced data localization. This new agreement also includes important provisions to ensure American innovators are able to sell products to Canada and Mexico, while protecting them from intellectual property theft. With USMCA, America will retain its place as the global leader in the digital economy.

The USMCA would level the playing field for American farmers and manufacturers, making it easier to sell “made in America” products in our neighboring countries. Expanded markets for American businesses would create and support more jobs in the United States.

In 2018, Canada and Mexico were the top two markets for Ohio exports. Combined, they were worth $27.9 billion, more than half of the total value of exports from Ohio. The approval of, or failure to approve, the USMCA would have enormous implications for our Buckeye economy and the millions of Americans whose jobs rely on trade with Canada and Mexico.

In 2017, 88 percent of iron and steel, 80 percent of rubber and 75 percent of motor vehicle parts produced in Ohio were exported to Mexico and Canada, according to the Business Roundtable. In order to keep shifts scheduled and workers employed, the businesses producing these products in America need certainty that they will continue to have markets in Canada and Mexico to sell their products.

In addition to manufacturing, Ohio farmers depend on trade. Ohio is the 12th-largest agricultural exporting state. Ohio boasts 75,000 farms; 90 percent are family-owned. The USMCA will level the playing field for these families by reducing the use of unfair trade-distorting policies. It also will open new opportunities for farmers to sell poultry and dairy products in Canada for the first time. The USMCA would provide farmers with much-needed certainty as they seek to grow. However, none of this can happen if Congress does not act.

American innovators, workers and farmers depend on trade. The USMCA offers the opportunity to rebalance North American trade and create more jobs, higher wages and better opportunities for American families.

No more delays. It’s time to pass the USMCA.