While at work in the nation’s capital, it is easy to boast about Washington’s robust agriculture industry, thriving tech and manufacturing sectors, and prosperous trade relationships with countries all over the world. I often remind my colleagues in Congress that Washington is the most trade-reliant state in the nation, and I have urged the administration to remember our unique position as they pursue global trade negotiations.
In 2018, Washington’s exports to Canada and Mexico totaled $11.3 billion. Trade-related jobs amount to nearly 40 percent of all jobs in the state, and our diverse industries are constantly competing for their place in international markets. As the leading export markets for Washington’s goods, it is imperative that we negotiate strong and fair agreements with our neighbors to the north and to the south.
In a state that usually seems to be both physically and politically divided by the Cascade Mountains, there is one fact we should agree on: Washington State needs the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
When the Trump administration set out to renegotiate and modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the people of Central Washington were nervous. I heard from farmers, producers, and manufacturers in every county of the 4th Congressional District about the short-term discomfort caused by recent pressure from foreign tariffs and uncertain markets, but they agreed: NAFTA’s outdated policies need to be updated, and the United States must preserve a healthy, preferential trade relationship with Canada and Mexico.
With the U.S. economy stronger than it has been in decades, President Trump and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer were in an excellent position to secure a beneficial trade agreement and address longstanding concerns that past administrations had strayed away from. Americans expected the administration to negotiate a fair agreement that would bring NAFTA into the 21st Century, and the USMCA does exactly that.
The International Trade Commission recently released a report which states, “the agreement would likely have a positive impact on all broad industry sectors within the U.S. economy.” The USMCA will increase our country’s growing GDP and add even more jobs to our already booming job market. Mexico recently voted to improve and strengthen their country’s labor standards, which means we are one step closer to delivering the agreement signed by President Trump, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last year.
The agreement makes it easier for small businesses to tap into foreign markets, protects and enforces Intellectual Property, and encourages more materials to be manufactured in the U.S. Most importantly, USMCA maintains duty-free market access for U.S. for agriculture products, as established under NAFTA, including the iconic Washington apple, which accounts for $450 million annually or one out of every three apples grown in the U.S. In addition, the agreement goes even further to advance access for the U.S. dairy and wine industries — two huge economic drivers for Central Washington.
The truth is Washington businesses — large and small — benefit from international trade, and the benefit will be even greater with the modernized, newly-negotiated USMCA. The administration has done its job, and now it is time for Congress to act. We must ratify the USMCA, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to ensure passage.
Dan Newhouse is a representative in the 4th Congressional District of Washington.