By Gary Locke and Erik Paulsen
While Washington is often dominated with partisan gridlock, Congress can put politics aside and improve the everyday lives of Americans by passing a new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), a trade deal that would replace the outdated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
NAFTA needed to be modernized and the USMCA is a 21st-century upgrade that benefits all Americans. It includes pro-growth reforms that sustain businesses while bolstering labor and environmental protections. We know our former colleagues and friends on both sides of the aisle value American workers over partisan politics. They can prove us right by passing USMCA quickly.
Consider how USMCA boosts America’s farmers. The pact requires Canada to raise import quotas for a variety of U.S. agricultural products, including dairy, poultry, eggs, and sugar. That’ll generate new sales opportunities for farmers and create jobs across the nation.
USMCA also sustains America’s 30 million small businesses, which form the backbone of the economy and employ 60 million people. If enacted, USMCA will be the first-ever trade pact to include an entire small business chapter. It establishes special legal protections for small firms and removes outdated red tape that governs cross-border sales. Small businesses need USMCA’s safeguards to gain new footholds in international markets.
USMCA would help America’s creative industries and stop other countries from stealing our intellectual property and trade secrets. The pact extends copyright terms in Canada, which will ensure American authors and artists generate more revenues from their intellectual property. Similarly, the deal strengthens Mexican and Canadian protections for biologic drugs — a cutting-edge class of medicines used in the fight against cancer and other serious conditions. These IP protections will benefit American innovators and spur additional research investments, which create jobs.
USMCA also dedicates an entire fully enforceable chapter to the environment. That’s a big improvement over NAFTA, which only dealt with environmental protections in a side agreement.
The new pact includes robust labor provisions that will protect American jobs, especially in the auto manufacturing industry. The deal requires that manufacturers make 75 percent of auto parts in North America to escape tariffs. And at least 40 percent of all those parts must be made by workers earning at least $16 per hour.
These provisions will keep factories in the United States and provide better job security for America’s nearly 10 million auto workers. Companies will no longer have a reason to outsource jobs to countries with cheap labor like Mexico or China.
Labor standards also get a facelift under USMCA. The deal bans all forms of compulsory labor and promotes equality in the workplace, neither of which were completely guaranteed in NAFTA. And it explicitly shields migrant workers from exploitation under Mexican, Canadian, and U.S. labor laws.
In other words, there’s no reason for Democrats or Republicans to delay any longer. It’s time for Congress to come together and pass USMCA as quickly as possible.
Gary Locke, a Democrat, served as governor of Washington, the U.S. ambassador to China, and as secretary of commerce. Erik Paulsen, a Republican, represented Minnesota in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2009 to 2019. Both currently serve as honorary co-chairmen of the Pass USMCA Coalition. This op-ed first appeared in Fox News Opinion on www.FoxNews.com.