Budd: New North American trade deal would benefit dairy farmers in state, country

U.S. Rep. Ted Budd (R-North Carolina) says the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade would be a boon for his district and the country – if the deal gets brought for a vote in the House of Representatives.

The deal is an update to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which came into being in 1994. However, the USMCA has not yet been voted on in the Democrat-controlled Congress.

Budd, who represents North Carolina's 13th District, told the North Carolina Business Daily in an email interview that he is confident the deal would be approved if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (D-California) brought it up for a vote.

“This isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue. This deal would be an improvement from the current deal, which was signed a quarter century ago, and would help so many districts around the country," Budd said. “As an example, under the new trade deal, dairy farmers in our country will be able to access roughly 3.6 percent of the Canadian dairy market, up from the current 1 percent. That would have a very positive economic impact on Iredell County, the top dairy producer in North Carolina.”

North Carolina had $10 billion in total manufactured goods exported to Canada and Mexico in 2018, per statistics from the National Association of Manufacturers. The number of jobs in the state tied to exports to those countries was almost 32,000 jobs, with some of the state's top exports being chemicals; textiles and apparel; motor vehicle parts; and engine, turbine and power transmission equipment.

Mexico alone took in $5.5 billion in exports from the Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia area in 2017, a 22.9 percent from the previous year, per the U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Administration.

The agreement has received praise from the country's second-in-command in North Carolina.

Vice President Mike Pence, while visiting Union County in May, said Congress should direct its focus on the USMCA, which would have an effect on more than 2 million U.S. jobs dependent on North American exports, and away from partisan investigations. 

Pence said it is essential to get the deal passed in order to create a level playing field.

"The USMCA will help American companies protect innovative technologies that give us an edge in the global marketplace. It's going to end programs in Canada that allow low-priced products to undercut American dairy, and it's going to ensure that agricultural product grading is fair and transparent,” Pence said.

Pence made a stop at a textile mill in North Carolina and talked about the negative effects of NAFTA on his home state of Indiana.

"I don’t have to tell you about the impact that it’s had on our communities," Pence said. "Over in the Hoosier State, where I grew up, where I served as governor, we saw almost entire communities shuttered, as factories closed and moved south of the border. But those days are over."

The Wall Street Journal reported, according to a June 11 article on MarketWatch, that President Donald Trump's acting Chief of Staff Mike Mulvaney said the agreement likely would have the backing from a majority of representatives. However, a majority of Democrats would have to be in support of it for Pelosi to bring it to a vote, and that would be dependent on changes to agreement, such as better enforcement of rules to strengthen Mexico's labor rights.

One of the North Carolina's U.S. senators, Republican Thom Tillis, felt confident in a June 10 Bloomberg article that his chamber would approve the USMCA. 

The National Association of Manufacturers said that tariff-free North American trade could help North Carolina avoid up to $1.4 billion in additional taxes.

When it comes to agriculture, NAFTA was the best deal for trade that the industry has had, American Farm Bureau President Vincent “Zippy” Duvall wrote in an April 3 column. But the USMCA would be an improvement in other areas, such the way it deals with trading and approval in biotechnology, he said, and how it would help the dairy industry and poultry access. Canada and Mexico have joined the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, improving access to them for nine other countries.

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