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Some races are marathons, some are sprints. By any measure, the push to get the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) passed — which preserves and strengthens our economic ties with our neighbors and top two export markets — was a marathon.
The USMCA has been three years in the making, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was involved at every step — from the early days when the fate of NAFTA was in question, through eight rounds of negotiations on USMCA, and throughout the process to get the deal passed in the Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate.
And it didn’t happen by accident. The U.S. Chamber and our partners held more than one thousand meetings with members of Congress and their staffs — not just on Capitol Hill, but in their home districts.
We put the full weight of our federation of state and local chambers, association allies, and deep relationships with international partners behind this historic effort.
Ultimately, compromise won the day — everyone gave up a little and gained a lot: Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill, businesses and organized labor across the U.S., and our international partners in Canada and Mexico.
The deal is not perfect, and the U.S. Chamber and our members remain disappointed to see its intellectual property rules weakened. This action undermines the competitiveness of innovative industries that employ nearly 50 million Americans. These IP rules shouldn’t — and can’t — be a model for future trade agreements.
But in other areas—including updated rules on digital trade, non-tariff barriers, and services — USMCA promises real benefits to American businesses and consumers. Most importantly, USMCA restores certainty to these vital trade relationships and eliminates tariffs and tariff threats that have imposed real costs on the U.S. economy and hampered investment for too long.
The result of this Herculean effort by many stakeholders is a modernized agreement that will strengthen trade with our two largest export markets — by far. And it will protect and grow the ranks of the 12 million American workers whose livelihoods depend on trade with our North American neighbors.
Where does the USMCA go from here?
First, it has to officially become law, and that requires a signature from President Trump, who has said he will sign the USMCA Implementation Act next week. [UPDATE: President Trump signed the bill on Jan. 29, 2020 at the White House.] Then, it’s up to Canada’s Parliament to pass it — Mexico’s Congress already has — and then we get down to implementation.
Later this month, the U.S. Chamber is taking a high-level business delegation to Ottawa to meet with senior Canadian officials — including cabinet members from the recently re-elected Trudeau government. We’ll be there on the first days the Canadian Parliament is reconvening after last fall’s election.
Also, implementation is a necessary step, but it does carry some challenges. The U.S. Chamber will be very focused on making sure the agreement is implemented in a way that maximizes its benefits for American companies, workers, and farmers. Our U.S.-Mexico CEO Dialogue will meet in Washington in May, bringing together senior officials from both governments. USMCA implementation will top the list of priorities at that meeting.
The big picture
Finally, it’s important to get the larger picture, larger than even North America. It’s vital to keep in mind what this historic victory signals for the broader U.S. trade agenda across the globe.
Passage of the USMCA sends a powerful message to the world that America remains open for business. The U.S. Chamber plans to seize this opportunity to build momentum for trade agreements with vital partners in key markets around the world, such as the United Kingdom, the European Union, Japan, Brazil, Turkey, emerging markets in Africa, and the Asia-Pacific, where America must retain and expand its footing.
There have been ups and downs in the U.S. trade agenda over the past several years, but we are in a good place today, and the future looks even brighter. Some may see growing uncertainty in the world, but over the long run, our goal remains the same. The U.S. Chamber will continue to be a vigorous champion for American leadership in free trade — for the good of our economy, our businesses, and our workers, and for the stability of the world.