Our view: USMCA is progress, so ratify it

Herald pull quote, 12/13/19

Historic rainfall. Early snow and sub-zero temperatures. Trade wars.

What more could have gone wrong for the region’s farmers in 2019?

But now comes a bit of good news with forward movement on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the trade deal expected to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement. Mexico ratified the USMCA this past summer, and now – as both U.S. political parties come into agreement – the deal is likely to be formalized.

Unfortunately, politics may come into play. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell this week said he will delay a vote on the USMCA until the conclusion of a Senate impeachment trial of the president. As reported in The Hill – a newspaper that covers the U.S. Capitol – McConnell said “from my perspective, (the USMCA) is not as good as I had hoped.”

Come on, Mitch. Judging by comments made from the region’s congressional delegates, USMCA deserves quick passage.


Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said it will “provide important certainty regarding our two biggest trading partners and significant benefits for U.S. agriculture.”

Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., called the recent agreement on USMCA “long overdue” and said that advancing it will be a “win for North Dakota.”

Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., also called it “a huge win for North Dakota.”

It’s been a long time coming, and especially for aggies. Meteorological crises notwithstanding, they have dealt with all sorts of body blows, the most recent being a shortage of propane – the key fuel used for drying corn. Trade wars have added to their anxiety.

After all, Canada and Mexico are North Dakota’s top trading nations – according to state data, North Dakota exports roughly $5 billion annually to those countries. USMCA will lock in an agreement between the United States and these important and nearby partners for years to come. It also could help move forward a trade agreement with China, since that country may have lost leverage over the U.S. now that Canada and Mexico will be back in the trading mix.

And it seems to be a political win for many, especially President Trump, whose declared goal has been to update trade agreements to better position the U.S. in the future. Even Democrats should see this as a win, since it shows they are able to push forward GOP-backed legislation amid the impeachment controversy.

Some are saying the benefits of USMCA aren’t as great as advertised. A gloomy report by The Washington Post notes that passing the USMCA “will provide a minimal macroeconomic boost” and that its broad effects will be “negligible.” But it also cites economists who say the USMCA will prevent a breakdown in cross-border trading between the United States’ chief trading partners.

We prefer a brighter outlook. The USMCA is a win for Trump, a good concession by Democrats and applauded by regional lawmakers, farm organizations and chambers of commerce.


Now, the goal should be to quickly ratify the USMCA – avoiding the politics of impeachment proceedings and giving farmers some peace of mind during the holiday season.

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