Opinion: Michigan workers need better trade deal

Paul Mitchell, John Moolenaar, Tim Walberg, Bill Huizenga and Jack Bergman

Everyone knows the world today is vastly different than it was in 1994: Walkmans have been replaced by smartphones, floppy disks have gone to the cloud, and cars are starting to drive themselves. The drivers of our economy have dramatically changed over the past 25 years. 

Picture taken at the Port of Veracruz, in Veracruz State, Mexico, on 27 August, 2018. - Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called Monday for a three-way trade deal with the United States and Canada, saying a two-way agreement reached with the US was just a first step. "It's important that Canada also be included," said the leftist president-elect, who takes office on December 1. "The free-trade agreement should remain as it was originally conceived" he told journalists.

While the 1990s are long gone, that era’s North America Free Trade Agreement, also known as NAFTA, needs to be put in the rearview mirror as well. It is time for a better and stronger deal that is fair to American workers and businesses.

For too long American manufacturing, agriculture, and workers have suffered from NAFTA’s outdated policies. That’s why we, members of Michigan’s congressional delegation, support the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, also known as USMCA, which replaces NAFTA and assists every sector of our economy through fairer trade with our neighbors.

As Michiganians, we know the important role the auto industry plays in our region and country, and we are extremely committed to our proud tradition of American auto manufacturing especially right here in Michigan.

USMCA is a better deal for us because it updates the automotive rules of origin by requiring 75% of auto parts be made in North America. It also requires 40-45% of automotive content be made by workers earning an average base wage of at least $16 an hour, which ensures United States manufacturers and workers can compete more successfully.

The United States Trade Representative and major automotive manufacturers agree that ratifying the USMCA will lead to more than $30 billion of investment in new automotive manufacturing in the United States, as well as the creation of more than 75,000 well-paying jobs for American workers.

We are already seeing the excitement among automotive manufacturers – just last week Fiat Chrysler Automobiles received the green light to build a new $1.6 billion plant in the Detroit area that at full capacity will support 4,950 new permanent, full-time positions with full benefits.

The advantages of USMCA aren’t just for manufacturing. Agriculture has also suffered under NAFTA, and in Michigan we’ve seen our dairy farmers hurt by Canada’s unfair milk pricing program that has allowed Canada to undercut them for decades. That ends with the USMCA, which makes Canada eliminate its milk pricing program, and expands market access for American dairy goods, poultry, and eggs. It also ensures American agricultural exports such as wheat are graded fairly by Canada and Mexico. 

These reasons alone make the USMCA a huge victory for our state, but it goes even further. The trade agreement cuts red tape to make it easier for small businesses to tap into foreign markets, modernizes and strengthens intellectual property protections, addresses digital trade issues that didn’t exist when NAFTA was created, and more. The deal also has built-in mechanisms that allow it to be revisited regularly, ensuring it stays current and responsive to the needs of all partner nations.

The USMCA ensures global trade is fairer, which improves our economy and supports American workers, farmers, and businesses. We urge our congressional colleagues on both sides of the aisle to focus on our communities and constituents and quickly bring USMCA to a successful vote in the U.S. House and Senate. Michiganians and all Americans deserve a better trade deal than NAFTA.

Paul Mitchell represents Michigan's 10th Congressional District. John Moolenaar represents Michigan's 4th Congressional District. Tim Walberg represents Michigan's 7th Congressional District. Bill Huizenga represents Michigan's 2nd Congressional District. Jack Bergman represents Michigan's 1st Congressional District. All the congressmen are Republicans.