This week the U.S. Senate voted to approve the United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA), which replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). For Washington exporters, the new agreement provides not only stability but also corrects what they saw as trade imbalance issues created by NAFTA.
“This trade agreement comes at a critical time for farmers and ranchers, increasing optimism that we’ll turn the corner in 2020,” American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said in a statement. “USMCA is an important step toward restoring the competitiveness of America’s farmers and ranchers, strengthening our trade relationships in North America and setting an example for agreements with other important trading partners.”
The agreement could also have a positive influence on trade discussions between the U.S. and the United Kingdom, as well as the European Union. The same day as the Senate ratified the USMCA, the U.S. and China reached an agreement on the first phase of a potential trade deal.
While China is the top exporter for Washington goods, Canada and Mexico combined compose $10 billion, or 13 percent, of total state exports. For Washington dairy farmers, the new agreement is expected to provide economic relief, with the USCMA increasing Canadian quotas on U.S. dairy products.
Since NAFTA was ratified in 1994, the number of Washington dairy farmers has fallen from 1,600 to around 375. For Washington wheat exporters, the new agreement has Canada treating imports the same as domestic products.
In a statement, Washington Council on International Trade President Lori Otto Punke wrote that “international trade has long been the cornerstone of Washington state’s economy, and the new trade pact strengthens key parts of the previous trade agreement (NAFTA) by enabling even more opportunities to build on our robust trading relationships with Canada and Mexico.”
USMCA is expected to be signed by President Donald Trump but still requires ratification by Canada.