By Rep. Kevin Cramer
The president has been moving us toward reformed and refined trade deals for several months now, seeking a fair and better solution for the American people. With the renegotiation of NAFTA into the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the American people - especially North Dakotans - have won a clear and substantive victory.
Our northern neighbor is by far our biggest trade partner. Look at these statistics: North Dakota exported $5.8 billion worth of goods to the global marketplace in 2017, and those exports supported an estimated 28,000 jobs. Of the $5.8 billion, the state exported $4.9 billion of goods to Canada in 2017. That's 84 percent of the state's total exported goods. When Mexico is included in the state's total exports, it comes up to 88 percent. This relationship is an economic boon and is absolutely essential to the growth of our state.
This new proposed agreement truly has something for everyone. Farmers and manufacturers can be pleased with the renegotiated terms that will now benefit them directly with a commitment from Canada to reduce trade distorting policies and improve transparency. In addition, the new agreement ensures non-discriminatory treatment for agricultural product standards.
Specifically, for North Dakota, I spoke directly with President Trump concerning the biased Canada grain grading issue and wrote a line he used in his Fargo rally speech. I worked closely with U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer and Chief Agriculture Negotiator Doud to ensure our North Dakota grain growers were relieved of the unfair practice of grading North Dakota grain as sub-par feed. This is estimated to double U.S. exports of grain to Canada. North Dakota grain growers deserve better, and they will now be recognized properly.
Our manufacturing workforce will be pleased with the automotive and machinery provisions included in the deal. Going forward, vehicles are mandated to have 75 percent of North American content to be imported without tariffs, compared to the current 62.5 percent. Also, at least 40 percent of a vehicle eligible for duty-free importing must have been built by workers earning at least $16 per hour. This wage requirement will ensure the market isn't being flooded by cheap labor - particularly south of the border.
Within the USMCA deal is a provision that requires any member of the pact to give three months' notice to its partners if it launches negotiations with a non-market economy, which the United States considers China to be. This is part of the Administration's goal of building constraints against China one trading partner at a time.
However, there remains much work to be done in regard to our adversarial trade relationship with China. China is still a significant obstacle for our soybean producers and a solution is needed as soon as possible. Thankfully, we are in a much stronger position than the People's Republic, and I expect to see them come to the table soon. That's why we're now seeing Chinese efforts to interfere in our midterm elections rise to the forefront. Their last-ditch hope is for the United States to concede defeat, undermined by political opponents of the president, here in our own heartland. We cannot let that happen. We've been subject to China's unfair practices and theft of our intellectual property and corporate espionage for far too long.
Renegotiating and reorganizing NAFTA into the USMCA was an essential move for our state given the economic relationship and mutual reliance North Dakota and Canada share as neighbors. I applaud the president for delivering on his promise to secure an improved and superior deal for both our state and our country. It is my sincere hope the House and Senate will act and ratify this agreement as soon as possible in order to cement this win for our country. I congratulate President Trump and U.S. trade representatives for delivering a big win.
Kevin Cramer, a Republican, represents North Dakota in the U.S. House.