Democrats in the U.S. House announced Tuesday that they had reached an agreement on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA. Border interests in the North Country have been waiting for the announcement and call it a substantial move to provide stability in cross border trade.
In announcing the USMCA agreement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it a victory for American workers with a significant focus on enforcement of its provisions. “There is no question of course that this trade agreement is much better than NAFTA. But in terms of our work here it is infinitely better than what was initially proposed by the administration.”
The North Country Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Garry Douglas says there’s nothing more important to the economic wellbeing of the region than the economic partnership with Canada. “So anything that puts a question mark over that is bad. Anything that enhances and solidifies that is good. It’s kind of that simple. Business likes certainty and in the case of USMCA mostly it puts the relationship for the next several years back on an even keel.”
Two sectors that are expected to benefit are the automotive industry and dairy. New York Farm Bureau Spokesman Steve Ammerman says the revamped trade deal is generally good for New York farmers because it maintains market access for agriculture in general and expands opportunities in the dairy, poultry, eggs and turkey markets. “It’s market access and in particular Canada and Mexico half of all of our ag exports from New York go to those two countries. So it was imperative that we maintain market access and work to build market opportunities in both of those countries because it’s vital to supporting agriculture and supporting prices that our farmers get for their products.”
SUNY Plattsburgh Director for the Study of Canada Dr. Chris Kirkey notes that several provisions focus on Mexico, such as toughening labor and environmental standards. He expects with the House announcement, ratification by Canada and Mexico is near. “Both countries are on the record as saying we’re going to move on this. We fully support it even in its revised updated format. And they too for their businesses are not interested in continuing uncertainty. So they’ve been intimately involved in the negotiations on this revised thing and being regularly briefed and they know what’s happened. And as such there’s really no need at this point for them to put it on the shelf until they see Washington move first.”
Former Democratic Congressman Bill Owens says there are no substantive changes in the agreement to benefit the North Country region but it will maintain a stable cross border economy. "What it does do is it makes a smooth transition from NAFTA to the USMCA so that we don’t have any disruption particularly at the border with regard to goods having to be subject to tariffs. So I think this was a necessity to happen and I’m glad that it has but I don’t see it as having necessarily any direct positive benefits beyond extending the existing NAFTA.”
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative reports Canada was the largest export and third largest import market for the U.S. in 2018.