U.S. House delegation from Kansas backs trade pact with Mexico, Canada
Bipartisan support emerged among U.S. House members from Kansas on Wednesday for passage of an updated trade agreement with Canada and Mexico that holds significance for the state’s agriculture and manufacturing interests.
The deal yet to be voted on by the House and Senate in Washington, D.C., would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement denounced by President Donald Trump with USMCA, or United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The pact contains stronger protection for workers and provisions tied to environmental issues and pharmaceutical trade.
U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, who represents the 1st District in Congress and is a GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, said ratification of USMCA would deliver jobs and commerce to Kansas. Nearly one-third of U.S. farm exports flow into Mexico or Canada, he said.
“We are on the verge of passing the USMCA trade deal, a deal that will mean millions of dollars in new market opportunities for Kansas agriculture goods, new customs and trade rules for our small businesses, and thousands of new jobs that will allow more goods and materials to be manufactured in the U.S.,” he said.
Third District U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, a Democrat, said Kansas benefited from strong, fair trade policy and the latest negotiations on the bipartisan agreement properly included labor interests in the bargaining.
She recommended U.S. House leadership bring the deal to a vote before the end of December.
“I’m particularly glad that labor had a seat at the table throughout the negotiation process, and that this agreement includes many of our shared priorities,” Davids said. “Importantly, we’ve secured strong enforcement measures to ensure that our trading partners live up to their commitments to protect workers.”
The newly renegotiated NAFTA contains a tough rule of origin on the use of steel in car manufacturing designed to keep out semi-finished Chinese steel, said Raj Bhala, an international trade law specialist at the University of Kansas. The deal also featured upgraded protections against labor violations in Mexico and dropped the 10-year data exclusivity protection for certain medicines, which may help reduce drug pricing.
“The upshot? The USMCA looks to be a new free trade agreement template for rebalancing among corporate, worker and consumer interests,” Bhala said.
U.S. Rep. Steve Watkins, a Republican serving the 2nd District of eastern Kansas, backed this opportunity to modernize trade with Mexico and Canada, calling it a “win for Kansas farmers, workers and families.”
Watkins’ GOP rival in the 2020 primary, State Treasurer Jake LaTurner, embraced USMCA.
“This is a long-overdue victory for our farmers and ranchers, who will finally get to reap the benefits of a more fair trade deal that will help them expand into new markets,” LaTurner said. “Another great promise kept by our president.”
U.S. Rep. Ron Estes, of the 4th District anchored by Wichita, said the agreement ought to raise gross domestic product and worker wages, protect digital commerce and open markets. He criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for delaying action on USMCA.
Estes said U.S. trade with Canada and Mexico accounted for $1.4 trillion in commerce in 2018 and supported 12 million domestic jobs, including 110,000 in Kansas.
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said the compromise would respond to personal appeals from Kansans who sought a more coherent economic strategy for the continent.
“I have long advocated for movement on USMCA,” he said. “Now is the time to get USMCA across the finish line.”