U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants trade negotiations reopened to strengthen enforcement provisions of the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
But Rick Dearborn, executive director of Pass USMCA Coalition and former deputy chief of staff to President Donald Trump, says that would be unwise.
“She’s the speaker and she has her opinion. The administration has its opinion. Anytime you reopen any of these trade treaties you open a can of worms,” Dearborn told Capital Press.
“There are things beneficial to all sides you don’t want to reopen. This is the best deal for our country and we should move forward,” he said, noting trade usually is not a partisan issue.
“No enforcement, no treaty,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said April 2 at a Politico event one day after AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the agreement should be reopened to strengthen enforcement provisions.
As speaker in 2008, Pelosi blocked a U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement negotiated by the Bush administration.
Andy Anderson, executive director of the Western United States Agricultural Trade Association in Vancouver, Wash., said he hopes Democratic members of Congress in California, Oregon and Washington convince Pelosi otherwise.
It’s in their best interests for their constituents to pass USMCA because, while not perfect, it is an improvement for all three countries over the North American Free Trade Agreement, Anderson said. NAFTA resulted in more agricultural exports to Mexico and Canada.
“It’s political. So far, we’ve seen that anything President Trump is for Nancy Pelosi is against,” he said.
“The way trade agreements get negotiated it’s not realistic for groups to say we will support you if you do this or that because all the countries have done the best they could and none of them got everything they wanted. If you reopen negotiations everyone wants changes and it’s back to the drawing board,” Anderson said.
Dearborn said there are several coalitions, maybe five or six, working for passage of USMCA including some with conditions on things they are concerned about such as labor and the environment. He said the Pass USMCA Coalition has a simple message for swift passage “with no conditions on our support.”
“There is no rivalry. Some have a different focus, but all have the same goal. We’re all doing our best to move USMCA forward,” Dearborn said.
The Pass USMCA Coalition added eight new members April 2, bringing its total membership up to 24 trade associations, businesses and advocacy groups. One of the new members is Northwest Horticultural Council, Yakma, Wash., representing the Northwest tree fruit industry.
“I think USMCA has a lot of support. It’s what has to occur,” said Mark Powers, NHC president.
Julie Adams, vice president of the Almond Board of California, said as a federal marketing order that organization cannot advocate for or against USMCA but that global trade is vital to the industry. California produces about 80% of the world’s almonds worth $5.6 billion and exports about 70%.
The Pass USMCA Coalition includes the National Cotton Council of America, National Chicken Council, WineAmerica, National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Dairy Export Council.
Corn, soybean and other grain, pork and beef associations belong to the 200-member USMCA Coalition headed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Association of Manufacturers and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
The National Association of Manufacturers and several other groups belong to both coalitions.
According to the Farm Credit Administration, Mexico accounts for nearly a third of all U.S. corn exports and between one-fifth to one-quarter of pork, dairy and poultry exports. Ag exports to Mexico make up about 5% of total U.S. agricultural production.
China, Mexico and Canada make up 42% of U.S. ag exports with each market buying about $20 billion in products in 2017, Farm Credit states.