Iowa’s ag secretary calls on congressional Dems to pass USMCA

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President Trump, Canadian President Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto sign the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement during a ceremony in Buenos Aires November 30, 2018. Photo courtesy Ron Przysucha, U.S. Department of State


This past week, I joined President Trump in New York to witness the signing of a bilateral trade agreement with Japan. The U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement will provide America’s farmers with enhanced market access in our third-largest agricultural export market.

When implemented, this agreement will enable American producers to compete more effectively with countries that currently have preferential tariffs in the Japanese market and provide market access for high-quality U.S. food and agricultural products to 127 million Japanese consumers.

The deal President Trump delivered is welcome news for Iowa’s farmers, who have faced difficult times the last few years from disastrous flooding, low commodity prices and limited access to global markets. As our producers get ready for harvest, now is the time to build on the momentum to secure another trade deal within immediate reach — passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

The USMCA modernizes the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Even though NAFTA has been a remarkable boon for Iowa farmers and rural communities, the USMCA contains much-needed updates and improvements.

Between 1993 and 2016, NAFTA helped quadruple U.S. agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico, from $8.9 billion to $38 billion. Every $1 billion of U.S. agricultural exports supports approximately 7,550 American jobs, meaning roughly 286,900 American agricultural jobs already rely on trade with Canada and Mexico. USMCA allows us to keep these gains for agriculture, while also modernizing our trading relationship.

In fact, the International Trade Commission has concluded that the USMCA “would likely have a positive impact on all broad industry sectors within the U.S. economy,” adding $68.2 billion to our GDP and supporting the creation of an estimated 176,000 new jobs across the country.

The impact will be especially profound for states like Iowa that are heavily involved in manufacturing and agriculture, the two sectors that are expected to benefit most from the USMCA.

Nearly 47 percent of Iowa’s total exports — $6.6 billion worth of products — are sent to our USMCA partners annually. Projections show those figures would jump significantly under the USMCA’s improved trade rules. Nationwide, exports to Mexico and Canada are projected to increase by between 5.9 percent and 6.7 percent once the USMCA takes effect, with that new economic activity adding as much as 0.5 percent to the robust wage growth that American workers are already experiencing.

Additional benefits of the renegotiated trade pact include specific provisions that address agricultural biotechnology, including new gene editing technologies, which will support innovation by reducing trade-distorting policies. Iowa’s dairy farmers will finally have access into Canada due to the elimination of Canada’s unfair class 7 milk pricing scheme, giving dairy producers more market access than was allowed under NAFTA.

The updated deal also expands access to two of our largest poultry markets while strengthening sanitary and phytosanitary measures that protect human, animal and plant health. In addition, the USMCA expands the market for eggs, which Iowa produces in greater quantity than any other state.

Surprisingly, congressional Democratic leaders have been reluctant to support the trade agreement even with all these increased benefits.

More than 20 Democrat presidential candidates have been touring our state for months, asking voters to trust them with our economy. What is notable is that they’ve avoided supporting a trade resolution that would bring even greater prosperity to thousands of Iowa households.

Now is the time to send a message before the Iowa caucuses to these presidential hopefuls: use your current position in Congress to move the USMCA forward before the end of the year. If congressional Democrats are serious about supporting Iowa workers, now is the time for congressional approval of the USMCA.

Iowa’s farmers and business leaders from across our state have urged Congress and the administration to work expeditiously, fairly and without partisan political motivation to implement this vitally important agreement with Canada and Mexico. In a recent letter to our state’s congressional delegation, 79 local business leaders implored lawmakers to support the measure, calling it “essential” for the future economic success of farmers, blue-collar workers and companies of all sizes.

Expanding markets and trade has been a top priority since I was elected Iowa Secretary of Agriculture last fall. Free trade and robust export markets are critical to thousands of Iowans’ livelihoods. The USMCA is a needed win not for the president but for our Iowa farmers. I ask you to join me in calling on congressional Democrats to support passage of the USMCA.

Mike Naig is Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture.

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