USMCA moves forward with handshake deal



USMCA moves forward with handshake deal

After months of intense negotiations between U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer and the nine-person USMCA Working Group, which included Oregon Reps. Suzanne Bonamici and Earl Blumenauer, the parties were able to come to an agreement on key improvement for the treaty.
By Maria Ellis, Director, Federal Affairs & Executive Director, PNITA

Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a handshake deal to advance the U.S.-Canada-Mexico Agreement (USMCA), opening the way for the treaty to be brought to the floor for ratification.

After months of intense negotiations between U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer and the nine-person USMCA Working Group, which included Oregon Reps. Suzanne Bonamici and Earl Blumenauer, the parties were able to come to an agreement on key improvement for the treaty.

The fact that two of the nine members of the working group are from Oregon stresses the important role our state plays on issues of trade. With a largely Democratic delegation, the votes of our representatives are important for ratifying any agreement.

This news could not come at a better time. The uncertainly around national trade policy and the whiplash-style in which tariffs have been deployed has led to continued decline in manufacturing output and significant, long-lasting loses for agriculture in Oregon. Businesses have put investment and hiring plans on hold, unsure of what new, unwelcomed surprise tariff the future might hold.

Getting this treaty ratified would provide Oregon and Washington companies some safe harbor of predictability, encouraging them to continue investing and expanding business within these two markets. Currently, there are roughly 150,000 Oregon jobs associated with trade activity with Canada and Mexico. Canada is Oregon’s second most important trade partner and Mexico is 14th. These markets are also important sources of intermediate imports – or inputs – for products that are made here at home. For example, 75% of what we import from Canada and 40% of what we import from Mexico is used to make other products.

The USMCA is the upgraded version of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). However, unlike the first go around with the ratification of the NAFTA where there was tremendous opposition from environmental groups and labor, Speaker Pelosi and the working group were able to squeeze in some environmental provisions and even receive a public endorsement of the USMCA from Richard Trumka, president of the national AFL-CIO. Citing significant improvements to the enforcement provisions, Trumka noted that they “demanded a trade deal that benefits workers and fought every single day to negotiate that deal, and now we have secured an agreement that working people can proudly support.”

Though NAFTA and USMCA are roughly 90% the same, the USMCA offers some small, yet important updates to the more than 25 year old treaty. These include the addition of intellectual property provisions, stronger protections for organized labor, meaningful enforcement provisions, concessions to limit the cost of prescription drugs, and more. Click here for a list of the refinements negotiated for the agreement.

No word yet on when the USMCA will come to the floor for a vote, but Speaker Pelosi won’t bring it without a good chance of passage, and today’s press conference is a good indicator that for optimism.

The Pacific Northwest International Trade Association would like to extend a thank you to Reps. Bonamici and Blumenauer for their work in ensuring that the USMCA supports Oregon’s economy, workers, and consumers.

Stay up-to-date on issues impacting Oregon trade with our new social media accounts on Twitter at @TradeinOR and on LinkedIn. If you want to get involved or become a member of PNITA, you can reach out to Executive Director, Maria Ellis, at pnita@portlandalliance.com.