Every member of Congress went to Washington promising to improve the lives of his or her constituents.

Yet this Congress, the 116th in our history, has singularly failed the American people. It has passed no landmark legislation, but instead maintained an unsustainable status quo.

The partisan fights come at the expense of our constituents, and after spending August recess listening to their concerns, I am left in no doubt as to how they feel about the political bickering. On the horizon is another election cycle which will prevent Congress from achieving anything substantial lest it might affect anyone’s election fortunes.


Sad as that is, this Congress needs not be a total wash. There is still time to make a difference and the trade agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada (USMCA) is our last best chance to make a positive impact on the lives of all Americans.

There are three key reasons why we need to pass USMCA and why we need to pass it now: First, this is a good trade deal for America. Mexico and Canada are two of the largest markets for the U.S. and this agreement improves our position in that market. Second, our current trade arrangements are outdated and obsolete. Digital services are the future of our economy, but they are not incorporated into our current trade agreements which may as well have been ratified in the Stone Age. Third, we are running out of time, and time is money for people around the country whose financial, industrial or agricultural planning is mired in uncertainty about how Congress will act.

The USMCA would be hugely beneficial to the U.S. because it builds on those essential trade relationships with our neighbors in Canada and Mexico. Together, the value of our trade reached nearly $1.4 trillion in 2018. In fact, 49 states rank Canada or Mexico as one of their top three merchandise export markets and a combined 28 percent of all U.S. farm and food exports went to Canada and Mexico last year alone. We rely on these markets for our economic security and the USMCA will ensure that we are competing on a fair and even footing across every sector: Intellectual property would be better protected, which will allow for economic growth, drive innovation, and support American jobs. Small to medium-sized businesses would be free from much of the red tape that constrains them from expanding internationally. New labor standards and enforcement policies will protect our workers by ensuring decent wages and working conditions across all three partner countries.

One of the criticisms I have often heard of the USMCA agreement is that, despite its countless improvements to our trade relationships, it is simply redundant. People have suggested that it is nothing but a cosmetic change to the existing North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, this agreement includes areas that could not even have been conceived in 1994 when NAFTA was signed, namely the digital economy. The digital economy really took off by the turn of the century, and in 2017 it accounted for nearly 7 percent of our GDP, worth $1.35 trillion, and supporting more than 5 million U.S. jobs. Today, we are relying on a low-tech agreement in a high-tech world. American ingenuity is currently being ripped off abroad because we do not have sufficient protections for the innovators in this country. The USMCA contains the strongest rules on digital trade of any international agreement. Not only will it protect creativity, it will also allow us to ride the next wave of growth in the digital space.


For all these benefits, and more, we must strike soon. Our partners are ready but growing impatient: the Mexican legislature has ratified the agreement which is now waiting on the president’s signature. The proposal has also been introduced by Canadian Prime Minister Justin TrudeauJustin Pierre James TrudeauAre US-Japan relations on the rocks? US to restrict border crossings for another month: reports Iran blames communication, missile battery alignment for shooting down Ukrainian jet MORE in the House of Commons where it is now moving through the legislative process. The world is waiting for the United States – and so are our own citizens. The uncertainty caused by the USMCA limbo is holding back our economy. Every sector of our economy from farmers and manufacturers to innovators and investors are kept in suspense about their future and unable to plan ahead before they know on which terms they will be trading with our neighbors.

It is time to end the limbo and enter into a new age of free, fair and digital trade in North America.

Norman represent South Carolina’s 5th District.