USMCA an urgent trade opportunity for Congress

USMCA an urgent trade opportunity for Congress
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This fall Congress has a rare opportunity to take a big, bold step to bring the world closer together by passing the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal and deepening America’s economic, cultural and human ties with its closest neighbors.

The debate over the USMCA has covered thoughtful but familiar ground in recent months, as the parties have worked to solve hard questions on labor standards, environmental protection and enforcement. Supporters of the deal have focused on the nearly 200,000 jobs and $70 billion in new GDP it would create by further opening export markets to virtually every kind of American business, from family farms to high-tech clean rooms.

Those are vital interests and substantial potential benefits. But from where I sit with two decades as an executive in the film and television industry and years more as an ambassador and assistant secretary of State for economic affairs, the stakes look even higher still.

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Sharing our stories is one of the most powerful and enduring ways people connect and come to know each other across every kind of cultural and community divide. It fuels understanding and powers a deeper kind of economic and commercial interconnection than virtually any other form of commerce.

It’s an area where the U.S. has always led — projecting our values, cultures and ideals around the world, all while generating millions of jobs here at home and massively boosting the export side of the U.S. balance of trade. Thanks to the unique genius of the U.S. creative community, the American film, television and streaming industry is central to the worldwide artistic and cultural conversation. Our films lead the way globally by virtually every measure — including box office sales and social media buzz.

That worldwide reach in turn powers tremendous new economic opportunities and growth here at home. U.S. film and television now supports 2.6 million American jobs across our 50 states, with salaries nearly 50 percent above the national average. The future only looks brighter thanks to a dynamic streaming ecosystem that has opened up a whole new world of anytime, anywhere viewing that the creative community has rushed to embrace. The “Golden Age” of video content lives on.

And this isn’t happening in America alone. Under NAFTA, the predecessor to the USMCA, we saw impressive growth in the domestic film and television economies of both Mexico and Canada, with North American co-productions that boost local artists and bring their work to the global stage as well.

Case in point: Mexican filmmakers Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro Iñárritu have won the Academy Award for Best Director five of the past six years for films that were distributed by the U.S. studios.

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But as the administration and its bipartisan partners in Congress have recognized, as technology has changed, the rules have not kept up. NAFTA passed when “The Today Show” anchors were asking “what is internet” and Superman could find a phone booth anywhere he needed.  

That’s why the USMCA’s tools to help facilitate growth of the online market and address commercial-scale digital piracy, which has compromised as much as $71 billion annually in domestic revenue, are so valuable, and why updating the rules of the road for trade across North America is so critical. 

It’s also why, going forward, we must continue to tailor and improve future trade deals where they touch on this constantly changing digital landscape. That’s a vital issue, but it’s one for another day (and future negotiations). Right now, Congress only has one trade deal before it: a must-pass agreement that will open up markets, create jobs and boost GDP, all while nourishing compassion and understanding between the United States and its closest neighbors.

The Motion Picture Association urges Congress to pass the USMCA.

Charles H. Rivkin is chairman & CEO of the Motion Picture Association. Previously, he served as U.S. ambassador to France and Monaco and U.S. assistant secretary of State for economic and business affairs.