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Brady, Scalise op-ed: Delaying approval of new trade deal hurts American workers, families and the economy

May 20, 2019

The Hill

Delaying approval of new trade deal hurts American workers, families and the economy

By Reps. Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Steve Scalise (R-LA)

May 20, 2019

The U.S. will be losing out on more jobs, more customers for Made-in-America goods and a stronger economy unless the U.S. House of Representatives takes up the updated trade agreement with Mexico and Canada.

Last fall the three countries came together to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement, bringing this successful trading partnership into the 21st century. USMCA will provide substantial benefits to U.S. workers, families and Main Street businesses.

But before we can benefit from these improvements, Congress must first approve the carefully crafted agreement. Every day of delay hurts American workers, farmers and local businesses.

President Trump and U.S. Trade Ambassador Robert Lighthizer worked tirelessly to make this agreement a solid win for American workers and job creators. Lawmakers in both parties heartily defend the current U.S-Mexico-Canada trading partnership as vital. On balance the new USMCA strengthens that partnership in key ways by preserving provisions that work well today, improving on others and establishing new standards that are the best in the world.

Delay of approval in Congress hurts U.S. jobs. Without the agreement America will miss out on adding 176,000 new jobs and over $68 billion in new economic growth according to the U.S. International Trade Commission.

Delay hurts America’s auto workers. Based on concrete business plans provided by the auto industry, USMCA will add $34 billion in new manufacturing investment in the U.S. and 76,000 American jobs over five years. If Congress delays or kills USMCA, these new investments and jobs could be delayed indefinitely.

U.S. agriculture also stands to lose every day the USMCA is not implemented. Why delay more access to Canadian customers for American dairy, wheat, chicken, egg and turkey producers?

America’s groundbreaking inventors create great paying jobs and careers here at home. Every day USMCA is stalled in Congress, U.S companies are forced to wait longer for patents in these countries. This means losing valuable time and dollars in getting new, innovative products to market while foreign competitors get a leg up.

U.S. inventors already wait an average of 10 years in Canada and seven in Mexico. That’s too long. These approval times accelerate under the new trade agreement, which benefits families and businesses in all three countries.

Today American farmers, small businesses and manufacturers often face higher costs and shipping delays for Made-in-America goods sold to customers in Mexico and Canada. USMCA streamlines customs procedures and inefficiencies at the borders, saving time and money for American businesses and consumers in all three countries.

Delay also hurts American innovation. Digital trade like online sales, music, movies and games is a big part of America’s strength, accounting for $1.3 trillion in the U.S. economy and supporting over five million U.S. jobs that pay nearly double the average American salary.

The current NAFTA was birthed before the internet became a major sales platform. The USMCA contains a modern digital trade chapter that sets a new standard for the globe and maintains America as the world leader in the digital economy. Tech workers in California, Texas and the East Coast are hurt by congressional delay.

America’s labor unions are losing out while Congress tarries. Democrats have long rightly criticized labor rules in Mexico whose workforce is characterized by undemocratic, employer-dominated unions which negotiate collective bargaining agreements that hamstring their workers. Here the Trump trade negotiators have delivered a stunning pro-labor agreement, requiring Mexico to create a true union system – including collective bargaining rights for Mexican workers – and the Mexican legislature has just passed important legislation to do so.

USMCA requires all three countries to adopt and maintain labor rights in line with guidelines set by the International Labor Organization. For the first time ever, the agreement sets a rigorous requirement that 40 percent of the value of a car must be made by $16-an-hour labor – that will push jobs back to the U.S.

These new obligations aren’t merely a side deal as with the current NAFTA, but are included in the text of the agreement and have been greatly strengthened. This is a level of commitment that Democrats and labor in the U.S. have sought but never achieved in decades of trade negotiations. Every day of delay by Congress allows Mexico to remain a low labor cost competitor against U.S. workers and companies.

It’s time to act.

After years of stagnation America’s economy is growing 50 percent faster than earlier projected. Paychecks are rising, especially among blue-collar and low-income workers. America’s manufacturing is back. And jobs and investment are flowing back into the U.S. from overseas.

Delaying USMCA means fewer economic benefits to hard working Americans.

We must pass USMCA now, and we call on Democrats in the House to work with Republicans in a bipartisan way to get this done for America.

Brady, a Republican, represents Texas’ 8th District and is ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee. Scalise, a Republican, represents Louisiana’s 1st District and is the Whip for House Republicans.