To keep our economy growing, Congress must ratify the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). For over 25 years, the United States, Mexico, and Canada have prospered under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
In addition to helping facilitate trade and business between our nations, NAFTA has empowered our continent to compete with Europe, Asia, and emerging markets the world over. The USMCA is a chance to modernize our continent’s trade agreement, with higher standards, and better policies that will help workers and businesses be even more competitive in the 21st-century economy.
As CEO of the only privately-funded economic development and policy organization that represents three states and two countries along the border, I’ve seen that free trade principles are the foundation of a stable and fruitful relationship with our North American neighbors. The Borderplex region (El Paso, Ciudad Juárez, and Las Cruces, Doña Ana County, NM) is the gateway of trade for the Americas and the fourth-largest manufacturing hub in North America.
In the years that the United States, Canada, and Mexico have operated under clear trade guidelines, exports to Canada and Mexico have tripled, manufacturing output in the United States has more than doubled, and our economy has improved significantly, and that’s no coincidence.
That is why I traveled to Washington, D.C. this past week—to encourage Congress to support the USMCA and build upon the quarter-century-old trade agreement. This bold and improved trade deal will address many of the outdated elements of NAFTA and ensure a level playing field for U.S. manufacturers to participate in international markets.
Notably, the USMCA will bring North American trade policy into the digital age by protecting intellectual property and promoting confidence in each economy’s market. This includes best-in-class protections for patents, trade secrets, trademarks, copyright, and regulatory data—the safety of which has fostered some of the greatest innovations in American history. These new rules will allow the market of ideas to thrive, pushing our communities toward greater innovation and technological improvement.
The USCMA will also allow data to move freely between partnering countries and protect proprietary source code, allowing businesses to focus resources on innovation instead of overbearing data regulation. The deal also contains new chapters on good regulatory practices and technical barriers to trade. These new rules will prevent discriminatory and unfair practices, and they will improve the reliability and accessibility of new markets for businesses in our region and across America.
The reality is, without a modernized trade agreement, Texas manufacturers alone, could face up to $37.3 billion in extra taxes, according to the National Association of Manufacturers. As a result, many manufacturers and businesses would lose sales to our global competitors.
Additionally, the USMCA will help keep the costs of goods and services low. Tariffs are after all nothing more than a consumer tax. An imposition of tariffs, or a consumer tax, will slow the purchases of goods and services, including essential commodities like food, clothing, and transportation.
The next step is congressional action to ratify this critical agreement. We need our U.S. Representatives and Senators in Congress to immediately declare their support and vote to ratify the accord soon. We cannot ignore the economic importance of free trade with Canada and Mexico. The fate of many businesses in the Borderplex region and the nation are on the line.
Jon Barela is the CEO of the Borderplex Alliance based in El Paso, Texas.
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