By Gov. Doug Burgum

North Dakotans are some of the world's most productive and innovative people. For

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decades, we have excelled in agriculture innovation and energy production and are now paving

the way for exciting new industries such as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). We have a

commitment to growth and exploration that is seen in our everyday activities.

This growth offers us great opportunities, like new jobs that have never existed in our

state's history. It also comes with dangers. As our communities branch out and participate in

the world economy, it is the government's duty to ensure they have access to free and fair


The United States, Mexico and Canada have all agreed that we can do more to protect our

citizens and promote a level playing field in North America. Leaders from our countries recently

agreed to modernize the nearly 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement and replace

it with the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

The USMCA stands to benefit our farmers and ranchers, the heart of North Dakota's

economy. Agriculture can be a volatile industry, so we need to do our best to ensure that our ag

producers have as much access as possible to world markets. Today, Canada and Mexico are

two of North Dakota's largest export markets. We sent $4.9 billion to Canada and $244 million

to Mexico in exports last year. The USMCA reduces tariff and non-tariff barriers for agricultural

markets and increases fairness in the Canadian wheat grading system, improving our ability to

work with our neighbors and close friends in Canada and Mexico. This increased market access

broadens the customer base for our farmers and ranchers, thereby decreasing market volatility.

The USMCA also offers greater protections for our citizens and will expand our ability to be

world leaders in industry and innovation.

Innovation flourishes in America because we protect our creators. Copyright laws and

intellectual property rights ensure that our creators can commercialize and profit from their

ideas as they share them with the world. When innovation stays in America, it is protected by

our legal system. We often share our innovation with the world, however, because sharing our

knowledge empowers others to better themselves and their own communities. This sharing

creates a risk that our ideas will be stolen by bad actors. The USMCA offers protections for our

creators, such as 10 years of data protection for biologic drugs which are created by North

Dakota companies such as Aldevron, so that they will continue to benefit when they share with

other peoples and nations.

The USMCA not only strengthens our current trading relations, it also opens the door for

continuous improvement. As part of the agreement, a committee dedicated to focusing on

small business issues will be formed. One of the committee's duties is to promote an annual

conference where business owners, academics and nongovernmental organizations will meet

and discuss opportunities for future improvements to the status quo. This forward-thinking

addition will smooth future negotiations and provide opportunities for innovation in


The USMCA is a smart step forward for North Dakota and all of America. Lt. Gov. Sanford

and I are grateful for the Trump administration's work on the USMCA and urge our members of

Congress to approve it quickly. We can't afford to miss this opportunity to benefit our farmers,

ranchers, business owners and creators.

Doug Burgum was elected governor of North Dakota in 2016.