Ken Warner: A critical vote on trade

Ken Warner, Willmar Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce
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Congress faces an important choice in its upcoming vote on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. USMCA is critical to our economic future because it will preserve and strengthen U.S. trade ties to Canada and Mexico, which are by far the largest markets for U.S. exports.

Many Americans already benefit from this trade partnership. U.S. trade with Canada and Mexico already supports 12 million American jobs, and here in Minnesota, 233,800 jobs depend on trade with our North American neighbors. Not only did Canada and Mexico buy $8.2 billion of Minnesota’s exports last year, sales to our North American neighbors accounted for about 40% of the growth in U.S. exports over the past decade. Canada and Mexico are also the top two export destinations for U.S. small and medium-size businesses, and 7,100 small and mid-sized firms in Minnesota export to our North American neighbors. When an American small business starts exporting, it’s almost always to Canada or Mexico.

Approval of USMCA will preserve all these benefits and ensure U.S. manufacturers, farmers, and service providers can continue to access the Canadian and Mexican markets. The new pact guarantees that nearly all U.S. exports will enter these markets tariff-free. In addition, USMCA includes strong rules blocking “behind the border” barriers against U.S. exports. All too often, foreign governments deploy regulations or standards in an arbitrary way to block imports. USMCA prohibits this kind of protectionism in disguise.

USMCA will also modernize North American trade rules. To illustrate, when NAFTA was negotiated a quarter-century ago, there was no e-commerce, so it’s no surprise the agreement did not address this booming sector. USMCA’s digital trade chapter sets a new, high standard.

Similarly, USMCA modernizes protection for intellectual property. The cutting-edge medicines known as biologics are a case in point. The old NAFTA did not protect them for the simple reason that they had not yet been invented. In addition, USMCA’s labor and environmental chapters break new ground. Unlike those in NAFTA, USMCA’s labor and environmental rules are fully enforceable.


Across the country, the U.S. business and agriculture community is rallying to make the case for approval of this vital agreement. More than 400 companies and associations from every sector of the economy have banded together to form the USMCA Coalition to urge Congress to approve it.

U.S. manufacturers have thrown their weight behind the agreement. This should come as no surprise: Canada and Mexico purchase more U.S.-made manufactured goods than our next 10 trading partners combined.

The same is true for American farmers and ranchers. U.S. agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico quadrupled over the past 25 years. Nearly one-third of U.S. agricultural exports go to our North American neighbors today.

By creating a level playing field for trade in North America, USMCA will help U.S. companies and the workers they employ compete in our top two export markets. The case for the agreement’s approval is strong. On behalf of the Willmar Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce Agri Business Committee, we urge Congress to approve USMCA as soon as possible and thank Congressman Collin Peterson for his support.

Ken Warner is the president of the Willmar Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce.

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