Maryland Chamber: passing USMCA 'very important' for Maryland exports


The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement working its way through Congress would be big for Maryland, a state Chamber of Commerce official says.

Christine Ross, president and CEO of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, told the Maryland Business Daily that the deal would be an improvement on NAFTA for the state, citing its addressing of the changes in technology since the dawn of NAFTA. Ross said 14 percent of Maryland's total goods are exports to Canada, covering anything from aluminum to agriculture.

“There are over 6,000 small and medium-sized businesses in the state that export their products, and Canada is a very strong trading partner, so this is a very important issue to us,” Ross said.

Maryland exported $1.9 billion in manufactured goods to Canada and Mexico in 2018, according to statistics from the National Association of Manufacturers, and had 2,818 jobs tied to exports to those two countries. The Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington area exported $4.21 billion to Canada in 2017.

The National Association of Manufacturers states that one out of six Maryland manufacturing firms export to Canada and Mexico.

Ross said it looks like the deal is going to move through Congress and that her department is making sure legislators know the impact it would have.

“We continue to work informing and educating our congressional delegation about the need to pass this new and improved trade agreement and really think and have expressed to them that it will benefit America,” she said.

Rep. Andy Harris (R-Maryland) from Maryland's 1st District, tweeted his support for the deal on May 28.

“The USMCA trade agreement creates more jobs. Let's pass a bipartisan agreement on USMCA to deliver a win for American farmers, ranchers, businesses and workers,” he wrote.

The deal, intended as an update to the two-plus decades' old North American Free Trade Agreement, was introduced by President Donald Trump last fall, but has yet to get approved by the House of Representatives. 

There recently have been indications of movement on the deal, though.

In a June 11 article on MarketWatch, the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump's acting chief of staff, Mike Mulvaney, said that the USMCA most likely has support from a majority in the House of Representatives, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) would not bring it to a vote unless she has a majority of Democrats on board with it. Getting changes in the deal, such as better enforcement of rules to strengthen Mexico's labor rights, would be key for that to happen, the article said.

Trump's decision to not hit Mexico with tariffs after Mexico agreed to strong enforcement on immigration may have helped remove some uncertainty of the USMCA's fate, Bloomberg reported on June 10. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) expressed confidence in the article that the USMCA would pass in the Republican-run Senate.  

American Farm Bureau President Vincent “Zippy” Duvall wrote a column on April 3 on his organization's website and said that the North American Free Trade Agreement when it was signed 25 years ago was the best deal for trade that the country's agriculture industry had ever had. He then wrote, however, that the USMCA is an upgrade over NAFTA because it is the first agreement that deals with biotechnology, specifically trading and approval. Also, for the United States dairy industry, the deal would end the pricing scheme Canada has been using as well as provide more access for poultry and other benefits.

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