Minnesota Chamber official: USMCA would be good for Minnesota's agricultural industry

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement working its way through Congress would be good for Minnesota and be a win all around for the three countries involved, a state Chamber of Commerce official says.

The deal, intended as an update to the two-plus-decades old North American Free Trade Agreement, was introduced by President Donald Trump last fall, but has yet to get approved by the House of Representatives.

Vicki Stute, vice president of programs and business services for the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, told the Minnesota Business Daily that trade with Canada and Mexico is important to the state's economy. She said the latest numbers show that Minnesota exports to the two North American neighbors totaled $7.2 billion and represented about 32 percent of Minnesota's total exports, an amount greater than the combined total of China, Germany, Japan, Korea and Singapore.

Additionally, 51 percent of Minnesota's agricultural and agri-food exports go to Canada and Mexico, and about 250,000 jobs in the state depend on trade with those two countries.

“They are extremely important partners with our agricultural economy here in Minnesota, which has always been an important piece of NAFTA and USMCA moving forward,” Stute said.

The USMCA by itself doesn't deliver wholesale changes to NAFTA, Stute said, but updates aspects of NAFTA like technology and reinforces relationships

“In many ways, the USMCA solidifies the trading partnership between the three countries moving forward and ensures that we continue to all benefit from importing and exporting our goods and services with the three countries that are closely aligned and neighbors,” she said.

Trade Works for America, which provides information on the USMCA and encourages people to contact legislators, released a commercial May 30 on YouTube that asked viewers to call Rep. Angie Craig, a Democrat from Minnesota's Second District, and tell him to support the agreement.

In a June 11 article on MarketWatch, the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump's acting chief of staff, Mike Mulvaney, said that the USMCA most likely has support from a majority in the House of Representatives, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif), would not bring it to a vote unless she has a majority of Democrats on board with it. Getting changes in the deal, such as better enforcement of rules to strengthen Mexico's labor rights, would be key for that to happen, the article said.

Trump's decision to not hit Mexico with tariffs after Mexico agreed to strong enforcement on immigration may have helped remove some uncertainty of the USMCA's fate, Bloomberg reported on June 10. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C), expressed confidence in the article that the USMCA would pass in the Republican-run Senate.  

American Farm Bureau President Vincent “Zippy” Duvall wrote a column April 3 on his organization's website said that the North American Free Trade Agreement when it was signed 25 years ago was the best deal for trade that the country's agriculture industry had ever had. He then wrote, however, that the USMCA is an upgrade over NAFTA because it is the first agreement that deals with biotechnology, specifically trading and approval. Also, for the United States dairy industry, the deal would end the pricing scheme Canada has been using as well as provide more access for poultry and other benefits.

The Washington Examiner's Tom Rogan put his support behind the USMCA when it was announced last October, citing that the deal would not only consolidate North American trade to the benefit of most of Americans, but that it also would make for closer diplomatic ties in other areas.

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