There are few issues that impact American jobs and economic growth as much as trade. With that comes a great deal of controversy, similar to the debate currently swirling around the proposed United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
The agreement that currently governs North American free trade, known as NAFTA, has been both blamed for the loss of manufacturing jobs and heralded for opening new markets for American products and spurring economic growth and improved bottom lines, depending on your perspective. What is beyond dispute is that the agreement is now a quarter century old, and much has changed at home and abroad in those 25 years.
Each year, Congress enacts dozens of laws and federal agencies publish countless new regulations to reflect changing times and evolving circumstances. Why shouldn't the same thing apply to the trade agreements we sign with our allies.
This is what President Trump has worked to accomplish through the USMCA. This new agreement makes important updates to improve market access for American manufacturing and agricultural exports, strengthen workers' rights, and enhance domestic content requirements that will be a boon for American companies, including those in Illinois.
According to the National Association of Manufacturers, $27 billion worth of manufactured goods were exported from Illinois to Canada and Mexico in 2018. That’s more than two-fifths of Illinois’ total global manufacturing exports. One out of three manufacturing businesses in Illinois exports to our neighbors to the north and south. Overall, nearly 70,000 Illinoisans hold jobs tied to manufacturing exports to Canada and Mexico.
Trade with Mexico and Canada is also vital to our state’s farmers and ranchers. The USMCA improves market access for our livestock and crop exports, which will improve farm income and support rural communities where agriculture remains the most important industry.
The USMCA also includes provisions strengthening worker’s rights in Mexico, long a point of contention for those opposed to NAFTA.
With so much riding on access to these markets, it’s critical that we have trade agreements that work to help Illinois workers and businesses, not harm them. We need policies that put workers on an even playing field, create jobs, wider markets, and accelerated economic growth. USMCA does just that. So, what's the hold up?
Last month, Mexico became the first to ratify this agreement. Canada is close behind. Yet House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refuses to bring the agreement to the House floor for a vote, despite the fact that a bipartisan majority of Republicans and Democrats have pledged their support. This is the worst of Washington politics and it's a big reason why the American people are fed up with Congress.
The USMCA is clearly an improvement over the old NAFTA trade deal. American workers, farmers, and employers are hurting due to this continued uncertainty. Speaker Pelosi needs to schedule a vote and allow the People's House to have its say.
We cannot afford to wait any longer on the USMCA.