Prepared Floor Remarks by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Chairman, Senate Finance Committee
Tuesday, September 24, 2019
I’d like to speak this afternoon about the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or the USMCA.
President Trump and the leaders of Mexico and Canada signed the USMCA on November 30th, 2018, which was 43 weeks ago. More than three months have passed since Mexico ratified the USMCA, and Canada’s ratification is well underway.
However, the United States Congress must do its part, and time is running short. We have a limited opportunity to ratify USMCA before election politics get in the way of securing this critical win for literally every broad industry sector in America. I therefore urge the Administration and House Democrats not only to intensify your discussions on USMCA, but also to expedite them and to present the USMCA to Congress.
By now, everyone should know very well that Mexico and Canada are by far America’s most important trading partners. In 2017, America sold more than half a trillion dollars of exports to Mexico and Canada. Those were more exports than we sold to our next 11 largest export markets combined. For Iowa, 130,000 jobs were supported by our $6.6 billion of exports to Mexico and Canada in 2017.
These numbers are not just academic statistics. During the August state work period, I completed my 39th year holding Q&As in every one of Iowa’s 99 counties, and I consistently heard from Iowans that passing USMCA is a top priority. I joined former governor of Iowa and former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, at a dairy processing plant in Des Moines. This meeting demonstrated what I heard at my town meetings: that passing USMCA should be a bipartisan priority.
In Cedar Falls, USDA Undersecretary Bill Northey and I held a roundtable discussion with commodity groups about the farm economy and the certainty that USMCA would bring to farmers. USMCA was also a focal point when I held meetings at manufacturing plants, such as Altec in Osceola and AIM Aerospace in Orange City.
I can tell you first-hand that people in the “real world”, people living outside Washington, want Congress to pass USMCA as soon as possible. My county meetings help me better represent Iowans, and it’s clear to me that Iowans support USMCA.
We cannot squander this opportunity to update NAFTA, which has been critical to American farmers and businesses, but is now a quarter-century old. USMCA will bring greater market access for agriculture and important new commitments in areas such as customs, digital trade, intellectual property, labor, environment, currency and non-tariff barriers.
These updates and upgrades will translate into higher wages, greater productivity and more jobs for Americans. In fact, the independent U.S. International Trade Commission found that USMCA will create nearly 176,000 new American jobs, while adding more than $68 billion to America’s real GDP.
Let’s not forget, USMCA was a hard-fought negotiation. For Mexico, two presidents worked across opposing administrations to get it done. Canada initially held out of the agreement altogether, only to sign-on at the last possible chance.
It’s easy now for members of Congress to talk about how we would have negotiated the agreement differently. That’s as true for Republicans as it is for Democrats. However, as the U.S. International Trade Commission’s report made clear, USMCA is a major advance from NAFTA. This is certainly true for labor and environment, which were mere side agreements to NAFTA, but now have the strongest obligations in USMCA that have ever been included in any U.S. trade agreement.
Simply put, we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and to call USMCA “good” would be a serious understatement. The Administration did its job and brought us a modernized trade agreement. Nevertheless, the Administration has listened to the concerns of House Democrats and has proposed actions to address those concerns.
For my part, I have kept an open mind throughout the process, and I welcome any workable, bipartisan solutions. However, given the political calendar that lies ahead, I need those solutions promptly. We simply do not have any more time to spare. Iowans and all Americans deserve some much-needed certainty on access to our half-trillion dollar export markets in Mexico and Canada, and it’s Congress’s job to deliver it.