A group of trade associations, businesses and advocacy groups, headed by Democrat Gary Locke — a former ambassador to China, governor of Washington and U.S. commerce secretary — have launched a new coalition to support passage of the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement.

“I’m not a supporter of most of the president’s policies but we have to look at this particular agreement,” Locke told Capital Press.

“It sets a higher standard for Mexico and Canada trade and benefits American growers and consumers. So that’s why this is a large bipartisan effort,” Locke said.

The Pass USMCA Coalition is a bipartisan effort advocating swift passage of USMCA by highlighting its unique benefits to America’s workers, consumers, businesses and economy.

Locke is honorary chairman. The coalition was announced Feb. 13. The executive director is Republican Rick Dearborn, former deputy chief of staff to President Donald Trump and who worked in the George W. Bush administration and was chief of staff to Jeff Sessions when he was in the U.S. Senate.

Locke said USMCA is “certainly an improvement” over the North American Free Trade Agreement that it will replace.

“It benefits dairy, poultry and eggs with fewer restrictions in Canada, and Washington wines will be able to market in British Columbia, where under NAFTA Canada could prohibit them,” he said.

The agreement also requires Mexican workers be paid higher wages when building auto parts, which helps level the playing field and reduces the incentive for the auto industry to move factories to Mexico, Locke said.

He said he will personally lobby members of Congress for passage and noted former USDA Secretary and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, also a Democrat, supports USMCA.

“We need to look at the agreement. It’s so much better than ripping up NAFTA and walking away, as the president originally proposed,” Locke said.

The agreement is a modern precedent for freer and fairer trade in North America and throughout the world, he said.

“Ratifying it quickly will improve our trading relationships with Canada and Mexico, create more jobs for American workers, and propel international trade into the 21st century,” he said.

Trade with Canada and Mexico supports 14 million U.S. jobs across many sectors.

These workers — and the industries they support — drive billions of dollars in annual U.S. exports. In 2017, the U.S. exported more than $275 billion in goods to Mexico and nearly $350 billion in goods to Canada.

Central Washington field reporter

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