Congress will soon vote on the United States’ updated trade agreement with Mexico and Canada.
This much-needed update, called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, will create jobs, open up new markets for U.S. businesses and strengthen ties with two of America’s most important allies.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are both smart legislators. They know the path to victory in 2020 runs through moderate districts. In the recent midterm elections, my party flipped 40 House seats in Republican strongholds like Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma by promising policies that tangibly improve the lives of middle-class Americans.
USMCA is one such policy. Public support for the trade agreement has increased significantly since U.S., Canadian and Mexican leaders finalized it last year. A new survey found Americans favor ratification by a 4-to-1 margin.
The deal promotes a fair, rules-based trade environment that would help American workers flourish.
Consider how the pact would help farmers. USMCA eliminates some of the barriers that prevent American farmers from selling poultry, eggs and dairy products in Canada. American farms already employ almost 3 million people. That number will grow if Congress ratifies the agreement and enables farmers to export more food to our northern neighbors.
Or consider how USMCA would boost wages for workers in the auto industry, which supports more than 7 million U.S. jobs. To receive duty-free treatment under USMCA, 75 percent of a vehicle’s value must originate in North America, up from the current 62.5 percent requirement under NAFTA. This change would create more jobs at auto-parts suppliers.
USMCA also requires nearly half of all car parts to be made by workers earning at least $16 an hour. That provision would ensure that American manufacturing workers earn strong wages.
This deal has the strongest labor provisions of any U.S. trade agreement in history. It requires all three countries to protect labor rights recognized by the International Labor Organization. It also makes it easier for Mexican workers to form unions and collectively bargain. That’ll help American workers by raising wages and benefits in Mexico—thereby making it less attractive for U.S. companies to shift production and operations to our southern neighbor.
And USMCA would make it easier for America’s 30 million small businesses to access the Canadian and Mexican markets. The deal reduces the regulatory and tax burden on certain American exports. For small e-commerce firms in particular, that could have a transformative effect on their business.
USMCA will support the growth of current and future U.S. industries. Ratifying the pact would show voters across the country that Democrats prioritize the needs of hardworking Americans. That message will resonate come 2020.
Howard Dean is a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and former governor of Vermont.