WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — The U.S. House of Representatives passed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade agreement on Dec. 19 with a bipartisan vote of 385-41.
Under the USMCA, all food and agriculture products that have had zero tariffs under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) will continue to enjoy zero tariff access to the partner nations’ markets.
“House passage of the USMCA with such huge bipartisan support is a major milestone and shows just how much President Trump is successfully changing U.S. trade policy so it works for the benefit of American workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses,” said Robert Lighthizer, U.S. Trade Representative. “The USMCA is expected to create between 176,000 and 589,000 new American jobs and substantially increase economic growth. The International Trade Commission’s analysis shows that USMCA will have a more positive impact on our economy, jobs and wages than any other U.S. trade agreement ever negotiated.”
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Canada and Mexico are the United States’ first and second largest export markets for food and agricultural products, totaling more than $39.7 billion in food and agricultural exports in 2018. These exports support more than 325,000 U.S. jobs.
“I’ve long said that support for USMCA crosses political parties, the bipartisan passage of the agreement today is proof of that,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “I am pleased the House finally brought this agreement to a vote and encourage quick passage in the Senate. President Trump delivered on his promise to replace NAFTA, and USMCA is a huge success for America’s farmers and ranchers. This agreement will unleash the bounty of America’s agricultural harvest to two of our largest trading partners in the world and it is critical to the success of rural America.”
Agribusiness organizations support the passage of USMCA and urge prompt finalization of the agreement by the U.S. Senate.
“Having a sound and competitive trade agreement with Mexico and Canada is critical to the continued economic success of U.S agriculture and for the U.S. economy as a whole,” said Randy Gordon, president and chief executive officer of the National Grain and Feed Association. “The USMCA preserves or expands upon critical market access for U.S. agricultural products in the North American market and provides a 21st century blueprint for future trade agreements.”
USMCA would further enhance U.S. food and agricultural trade with Mexico and Canada and would deliver an additional $2.2 billion in U.S. economic activity, he said.
“NGFA particularly appreciates the dedication and persistence of U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and House leadership to overcome final hurdles to reach this milestone,” Gordon said. “We urge the Senate to continue progress on this vital agreement for the United States and the entire North American region by ratifying USMCA as soon as possible.”
The NGFA said among other benefits, USMCA would: Facilitate cross-border trade flows through higher levels of regulatory coherence and cooperation; implement timelines and notifications for adverse import checks; reduce the likelihood of trade disruptions in products of agricultural biotechnology; apply technical consultations for sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) disputes and create a mechanism for expeditiously resolve cross-border SPS issues on individual shipments; and require that SPS standards be grounded in science, based on proper risk assessments and implemented using prudent risk-management techniques.
Constance Cullman, CEO and president of the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA), said, “Today is a big step forward for American agriculture and the animal food industry. The USMCA builds upon an already great agreement with our neighbors to preserve and expand market access for the animal food and livestock industries while providing much needed stability across the agriculture sector.”
The AFIA said trade with Canada and Mexico is important to the animal feed, ingredient and pet food industry with exports more than quadrupling since the inception of the NAFTA 25 years ago.
“This is a win for soybean farmers and a win for the administration and congress,” said Bill Gordon, president of the American Soybean Association. “Their efforts to pass a free trade deal that can restore certainty and stability to an important export market for our farmers demonstrates that they can accomplish great things working in unison. We express our thanks to the House of Representatives for this momentous act. We now look to the Senate to take up and pass USMCA in early 2020.”
The ASA said Mexico is the second largest market for whole beans, meal and oil, and Canada is the fourth largest buyer of meal and seventh largest buyer of oil for U.S. soybean farmers, making the trade agreement important to sustaining the growth realized in those two countries under the NAFTA.
“Agriculture desperately needed a win for economic recovery, and passing the USMCA was that win,” said Ben Scholz, president of the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG). “NAWG applauds those members of Congress for their support and hard work to advance this critical trade deal one step closer to the finish line. We encourage the Senate to follow its lead and pass this deal early in the new year.”
According to both NAWG and the U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), USMCA retains tariff-free access to imported U.S. wheat for flour milling customers in Mexico, a step toward rebuilding trust in the United States as a reliable supplier in this important, neighboring market. Both associations also said the USMCA makes important progress toward more open commerce for U.S. wheat farmers near the Canadian border by allowing U.S. varieties registered in Canada to receive reciprocal grading treatment.
“Mexico’s flour millers import more U.S. wheat than any other country and they have been very anxious about the outcome of this trade agreement,” said Doug Goyings, chairman of USW. “At the end of a conference with those millers last June, we agreed to work together to get USMCA implemented. Our colleagues at NAWG have enthusiastically joined that effort on Capitol Hill and we thank them for their support.”
Kevin Ross, president of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), said, “Corn farmers have been working toward this vote for nearly a year, sending emails, having meetings and making phone calls to their representatives in support of USMCA. All of agriculture should be incredibly proud to see these efforts pay off with such a strong, bipartisan vote. We wouldn’t be at this stage in the ratification process without the hard work of individual farmers across the country. Ratifying USMCA has been NCGA’s top legislative priority because Mexico and Canada are the U.S. corn industry’s largest, most reliable markets.
“NCGA thanks members of the house for their votes in support, along with President Trump and his administration’s continued efforts to come to a bipartisan consensus. It’s now up to members of the U.S. Senate to quickly pass USMCA in the new year.”