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Opinion: Time is now to modernize NAFTA

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The clock is ticking for Congress to implement President Donald Trump’s renegotiated trade deal with Mexico and Canada, known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

Signed in late 2018, the USMCA would revise and modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement. Although it has strong bipartisan support, it appears to be drowned out by House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s unprecedented impeachment declaration. For the speaker, it seems that keeping this political divide alive comes before legislative responsibilities — even at the expense of strong policies like the USMCA.

Before going into effect, the USMCA must be approved by the legislative branches of all three countries. While it passed the Mexican legislature with ease and passage in Canada’s Parliament is expected, the USMCA, like many other common-sense, bipartisan bills, has been neglected by the speaker in favor of partisan policies.

With the 2020 election quickly approaching, many of my colleagues and I fear that the USMCA could become a political football, never making any real movement or passing in the congressional gridiron.

The benefits of a trilateral trade agreement with Mexico and Canada to our economy are undeniable. Since NAFTA was enacted in 1994, American agriculture exports to Canada and Mexico have increased by 289% and 311%, respectively. Roughly 20% of the United States’ agriculture products go to foreign markets, with Mexico and Canada exports generating $41 billion collectively. What’s more, these exports support more than 325,000 American jobs. Missouri has benefited greatly from this agreement, exporting billions of dollars in goods to Mexico and Canada in 2018.

The USMCA promises to only strengthen these numbers by offering crucial improvements to NAFTA, such as enforcing workers’ rights by requiring Mexico to create safe working conditions and enforce minimum wages; protecting intellectual property rights to curtail piracy and the manufacturing of counterfeit goods; and enforcing environmental protections that will curb trafficking wildlife and timber, and improve air quality.

When you examine the negotiated improvements the USMCA offers, Democratic party support seems like a no-brainer; and yet, Pelosi has made no attempt to bring it to a vote. With U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer’s eagerness to, in Pelosi’s own words, “get to a yes,” and make actual strides, one can’t help but question her true motives.

The current trade agreement is a house of cards and, if rejected or ignored by Congress, it could crumble.

Should Congress fail to act, the impact could be catastrophic; it could force the president to pull out of NAFTA, effectively upending a 25-year supply chain and devastating parts of the U.S. economy. With millions of U.S. jobs and billions of dollars hanging in the balance, we cannot wait nor can we allow Pelosi to play partisan politics at the expense of millions of Americans.

Now is the time for the USMCA to pass the finish line. I encourage Pelosi to bring it to the floor for a vote immediately.

U.S. Rep. Billy Long, R-Missouri, can be reached at (202) 909-3744. His Twitter handle is @USRepLong.

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