USMCA Trade Pact Earns Bipartisan Backing Locally

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A new trade pact with Canada and Mexico isn’t perfect, but it’s an improvement over the trilateral trade deal that it replaces, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan said Thursday.

The day after the U.S. House of Representatives impeached President Donald Trump on two largely party-line votes, Democrats and Republicans voted on a bipartisan basis to approve the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement Implementation Act. The measure passed the House by a vote of 385-41.

After going back and forth on the legislation, Ryan, D-13 Ohio, said he decided in the end to vote for the deal, which updates trade rules for the three countries. Once ratified by the Senate and signed into law by the president, USMCA would replace the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, which critics for years have blamed for costing American jobs.

“I ended up voting for it with the idea that it’s better than what we had,” citing improvements with regard to labor protections as well as other issues, Ryan said on a conference call. “I’m not necessarily confident that it’s going to prevent all the job loss or bring the jobs back but I do think it’s a step in the right direction.”

Ryan said he’s concerned about potential loopholes in the agreement and that enforcement provisions might not be as robust.

“The Canada part of this is a really solid deal. Being from Ohio, we do do a lot of importing and exporting with Canada. That part of the deal is good,” he said.

“My problem is with the Mexican portion of the deal. I’m concerned about them enforcing the provisions of this bill,” he continued. “They kill labor leaders down there who try to organize. I’m not sure they’re going to invest the money they need to have those enforcement provisions enforced, so I’m concerned.”

Ryan’s Republican colleagues in northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, U.S. Reps. Bill Johnson and Mike Kelly, were more bullish on the agreement in statements issued by their offices.

The vote in the Democratic-led House followed “months of pressure” by Trump and House Republicans, Johnson, R-6 Ohio, said. He thanked Trump, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer “and all those behind the scenes who worked so hard to make this campaign promise a reality,” which he predicted would have “tremendous benefits” for his constituents.

“This could have — and should have — happened long ago, but Speaker Pelosi was too busy plotting to impeach the President,” Johnson continued. “But make no mistake, USMCA is good news for the American people and those in Eastern and Southeastern Ohio.”

Reports estimate that the agreement will create more than 170,000 new jobs and add more than $60 billion to the U.S. economy in six years.

“In Ohio alone, over 100,00 jobs depend on exports to Mexico and Canada. This agreement opens markets to our manufacturers and farmers and reduces trade barriers, creating freer markets, fairer trade, and strong economic growth.,” Johnson said. “It will also bring our trade policy into the current century; it was way past time for the outdated NAFTA pact to be replaced.”

Kelly, R-16 Pa., similarly praised the agreement.

“Western Pennsylvanians know that NAFTA was a raw deal for our region, so I was proud to vote in favor of USMCA, President Trump’s new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico that puts our workers and farmers first,” he said. “USMCA is a major victory for Americans, and now it will finally move forward and help build on the best economy our country has experienced in half a century.”

Beyond the provisions of the agreement, Ryan said that he liked that the new trade pact received strong bipartisan support.

“I do feel some sense of responsibility in this environment to work with my Republican colleagues to the extent I can, to work with the administration to the extent I can,” he said. “You’re not always going to get everything you want, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, issued a statement praising the bipartisan backing for the agreement in the House and applauding Trump and Lighthizer. He urged his Senate colleagues to support USMCA when it reaches the chamber.

“Ohio’s two top trading partners are Canada and Mexico,” he noted. “The new USMCA is particularly good for Ohio because it expands market access for Ohio farm products, incentivizes more auto production in the state, and makes online sales easier for Ohio companies.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.