Weekly Columns

Putting “America First” in our Trade Deals

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Johnson City, October 10, 2018 | comments

President Donald Trump has repeatedly promised to put “America First” in his policies, and there is a lot of evidence he is delivering on that promise. Earlier this year, the President announced he was willing to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada unless Mexico and Canada renegotiated terms of the agreement. The President also warned those countries they could be subjected to tariffs if trade talks fail. Last week, President Trump announced a renegotiated arrangement that had been agreed to by all three countries, which he is referring to as the USMCA (the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement). I am glad our countries were able to find common ground, and it appears the new agreement will enhance American businesses’ ability to compete. I look forward to carefully reviewing this agreement when it is brought up in Congress for a vote.

I support free trade, but agree with the President that trade must be fair also. I watched as my father lost his manufacturing job to a factory in Mexico, and I still hear all too often similar stories from people across the First District of Tennessee. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is 24 years old and was in need of modernization. However, I also have talked to a lot of businesses and farmers throughout the First District in the past several months who were concerned about an escalating trade war with our neighbors, and the need to maintain access to markets throughout North America. One of the greatest benefits of this deal will be the stability it provides to thousands of East Tennessee workers whose businesses rely on both free and fair trade. 

The announced framework of the USMCA appears to benefit American manufacturers and farmers; protect intellectual property; and ensure safe working conditions for laborers. East Tennessee has worked hard to rebuild our manufacturing sector and any agreement must not only maintain those gains, but also ensure further growth. For example, in East Tennessee, the motor and equipment manufacturing industry employs over 4,200 individuals – these are good-paying jobs that support a middle class family. I firmly believe we should encourage growth of these job opportunities for American workers. 

Canada and Mexico are our first- and third-largest export markets for U.S. food and agricultural products, making up 28 percent of total food and agriculture exports in 2017, while supporting 325,000 American jobs. That’s why it’s particularly good news for our farmers that the updated arrangement will maintain strong markets where they sell their goods. 

Some of the other benefits of the agreement that President Trump and his administration have negotiated are removing provisions from NAFTA that are no longer relevant; discouraging the practice of offshoring jobs while creating opportunities for additional auto manufacturing in the U.S.; and ensuring more market access for our farmers. Specifically, this deal should increase access to the Canadian market for our dairy farmers, many of whom are right in East Tennessee. Canada is also providing full access for other U.S. dairy products, eggs and poultry to be sold in their market. This is great to hear, particularly after so much turmoil earlier this year for many of the dairy farmers in East Tennessee.

I look forward to carefully reviewing the USMCA and learning more about how it affects East Tennesseans. I also hope this agreement will provide momentum to complete trade discussions with other countries, notably Europe, to continue the great economy we have right now.
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