On the USMCA, Pelosi can’t take yes for an answer
The 2016 election revealed a widespread concern in communities across America that trade deals were working for other countries and the elites, but not middle-class Americans. Democrats may not like it, but President Trump won the election and earned a mandate to update deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which his administration has done in a bipartisan way with both Republicans and Democrats in Congress.
The new agreement, the pending U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), is a long overdue upgrade to NAFTA. The deal would be a boon to our economy and help create jobs in our manufacturing sector and boost wages for American workers.
Overall, more than 12 million American jobs depend on trade with Canada and Mexico. Not surprisingly, manufacturing plays a part. Canada and Mexico buy more products manufactured in America than our next top 10 trading partners combined.
Exports of manufactured goods to Canada and Mexico account for more than 2 million jobs across the country. As the representative of Wichita, Kan. – the Air Capital of the World – I’ve seen firsthand just how important it is that our manufacturers have access to global markets. Transportation equipment exports accounted for $2.7 billion last year, and the growth in manufactured goods exports from Kansas grew 8.51 percent from 2010 to 2018. In addition, Kansas’ aerospace exports to Canada and Mexico have increased by more than 20 percent over the last decade, helping grow the total value of manufactured goods exported from Kansas to Canada and Mexico to $3.2 billion in 2018. Kansans, as well as Americans from across the country, are manufacturing products the world needs.
These numbers underscore the potential of the USMCA for American manufacturing. The USMCA maintains duty-free access for U.S. manufactured goods and removes existing barriers for remanufactured goods, opening new markets for American products. The deal also drives up manufacturing wages and improves labor standards.
If the USMCA were brought to the floor of the House for a vote, it would pass overwhelmingly. Yet, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) continues to slow-walk the ratification process. She can’t take yes for an answer because too many in her party only want to say no.
Pelosi claims she wants “surgical” modifications to the USMCA. The truth is she wants it to go to sleep on the operating table and never wake up. The sad reality is too many in Pelosi’s party would gladly hand America a loss if it means denying President Trump a win.
As we recently saw with the bipartisan border bill for humanitarian aid Congress just approved, Pelosi leads a caucus that views compromise as selling out, even when principled compromises solve real problems. For instance, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), a chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, bitterly attacked his colleagues who backed the border bill, saying, “Since when did the Problem Solvers Caucus become the Child Abuse Caucus?”
Pocan’s comment was a new low and part of the new abnormal in Washington.
The USMCA is too important to be derailed by the kind of politics and pandering to the socialist wing of the Democratic Party we saw with the border bill. Instead of trying to score political points, Pelosi should view the USMCA as a win-win-win, first for America, then for our trading partners.
Pelosi should bring the USMCA to the House floor for a vote as soon as possible. Every day a vote is delayed is a missed opportunity for more jobs and economic growth. Pelosi and House Democrats don’t need more time. They need political courage and a willingness to put the American people ahead of politics.
Delaying the USMCA will hurt American workers and families. But if we work together to help America win, we will all share the credit.
Estes represents the 4th District of Kansas and is a member of the Ways and Means Committee.