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The Journal Gazette

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Tuesday, September 10, 2019 1:00 am

Revised trade agreement deserves its day in House

Jim Banks

Jim Banks, a Republican, represents Indiana's 3rd District in the U.S. House.

It's been almost 12 months since President Donald Trump announced he had reached a new trade agreement with Mexico and Canada. The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement modernizes the North American Free Trade Agreement and resets the parameters of North American trade on freer and fairer terms. Unfortunately, domestic politics have kept this crucial bill off the House floor.

The strongest argument for the ratification of the USMCA is it replaces NAFTA, which played a role in the decline of Indiana's manufacturing base. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from NAFTA's implementation in 1994 to 2018, Indiana lost manufacturing jobs at nearly four times the national average. The jobs lost were stable and high-paying.

Our district still has a higher percentage of manufacturing jobs than any other district in the country, many in the automotive industry.

We can protect those jobs via the new trade deal, which ensures that 40% of auto content is made by workers earning at least $16 an hour – a wage only 15% of Mexico's workers equal or surpass. On top of that, this bill guarantees that 75% of auto parts in every car are sourced from North America, an increase of 12.5%.

Additionally, the new deal would extend copyright protection on industrial design from 10 years to 15 years and double the length of data protection for agricultural chemicals. Both statutes are crucial for the booming medical device industry in Warsaw – not to mention farmers across Indiana.

The update also won my support based on the prosperity it would bring to farmers in northeast Indiana. Both the Farm Bureau and the Agribusiness Council of Indiana favor the bill. Why? Because Mexico and Canada, our top two trading partners, account for 47% of Indiana's exports, and generate more than $18 billion in revenue. At a time when trade is volatile, Hoosier farmers crave stability and reliability in two key export markets.

Beyond Indiana, the National Corn Growers Association and American Soybean Association have both announced their support for the deal. Both industries stand to gain from an agreement that guarantees tariff-free trade with Mexico.

Under the agreement, Canada would open itself up to the U.S. dairy exports, which are projected to rise by $227 million annually. Poultry businesses will also benefit because Canada has agreed to raise its tariff-free chicken quota by nearly 20% over six years.

It's clear. To protect and potentially expand our district's manufacturing base, and to give Hoosier farmers reliable trade partners, we need a better North American trade deal. This is that better deal; it's projected to add 176,000 American jobs and inject $68 billion into the national gross domestic product. While it is a multinational agreement, the benefits will be felt here at home.

So, what's stopping the deal? Not what – who. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is single-handedly preventing the agreement from passing.

The speaker may be partially motivated by an aversion to handing Trump a policy victory before the 2020 election. But the real reason behind her obstruction is an emerging power dynamic within the Democratic Party.

She has been cowed by a new, radical wing of Democrats, best represented by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

This wing opposes the deal out of disdain for basic economic principles. They wield their massive social media following and disproportionate media attention to control Pelosi's legislative agenda. Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders don't represent the American electorate's beliefs, but Pelosi has let them become the de facto leadership of the majority party in the House.

It's time for Pelosi to find the courage to bring the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement to a vote.