Johnson: Congress must act on USMCA


Speakout

Trade is about more than exchanging goods and services. Trade can lift families and industries out of an economic slump and offer opportunities for growth. The absence of trade can result in uncertainty and struggle.

Here in South Dakota, it’s no secret that trade is vital to our economy and the numbers speak for themselves. According to the U.S. Trade Representative, South Dakota is the country’s 10th largest agricultural exporting state, shipping $4 billion in domestic agricultural exports in 2016. In particular, our state’s agricultural producers have enjoyed expanded market access to our neighbors, Canada and Mexico, since passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement – more commonly known as NAFTA.

NAFTA paved the way for Canada to become our nation’s top export market for agricultural products, with $20 billion worth of product crossing our northern border. Mexico isn’t too far behind in third place, with product worth $18.6 billion.

We must keep this momentum going, which is why Congress needs to act on ratifying the newly negotiated United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) Agreement. Months have passed since the USMCA was signed and in the meantime, our trading partners and family farms across South Dakota are stuck in a cycle of uncertainty.

Recently, I had breakfast with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. He explained the impressive progress the president’s team had made on the trade deal. USMCA is clearly a better deal than NAFTA was. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect, but it is clearly better for the United States. Ambassador Lighthizer made it clear that inaction would undermine U.S. credibility and threaten our prospects to negotiate future trade agreements with other countries.

We need to send a clear message that the United States, and South Dakota, are open for business.

Since coming to Congress, I’ve had the opportunity to study the USMCA. Ambassador Lighthizer is right – President Trump and his administration have made much-needed improvements to our trading agreement. Prominently, the USMCA gives U.S. dairy producers greater access to the Canadian market, driving additional demand and opportunities for our producers.

Congress also needs to signal progress in negotiations with other nations. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue recently testified before the House Agriculture Committee, and signaled the steel and aluminum tariffs, along with retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agriculture products, would likely be eased with the approval of the USMCA. This change would give the U.S. and President Trump additional leverage to conclude negotiations with China and to ensure our producers and manufacturers have a level-playing field. 

South Dakota farmers and ranchers want market access and a fair opportunity to compete. This is Congress’s chance to show the world the United States is a leader on trade. With an ever-increasing global population, South Dakota stands ready to help feed the world and keep our family farms prosperous. I will be doing my part to ensure House leadership brings the USCMA ratification to the floor as soon as possible.

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