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Opinion: Michigan autoworkers need revamped trade deal

Andy Koenig
Cars await shipment at the Port of Veracruz in Mexico.

Growing up in Michigan meant constantly hearing stories about the long-lost glory days of the Detroit Lions and the American auto industry. After all, our state is the birthplace of the car, and the industry’s economic impact is felt in almost every aspect of our daily lives. 

Over the past decade, American automakers have worked to rebuild those glory days by selling American-made cars and trucks around the world at an ever increasing rate. Across the country, the auto industry supports more than 7 million jobs and adds hundreds of billions of dollars to the U.S. economy. To protect America’s auto industry, it is more important than ever to ensure the car industry has access to customers all across the globe.


Michigan cannot risk losing these important customers, and fortunately for our autoworkers the Trump administration is hard at work to ensure this critical access continues and improves. That’s why Michigan needs Congress to approve the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, commonly known as the USMCA. 


The USMCA will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, an agreement the U.S. signed with Mexico and Canada 25 years ago. When it was enacted, NAFTA was key to lowering trade barriers with our North American neighbors, creating enforceable trading rules and accessing new markets for American-made goods and services. However, that was a quarter of a century ago, and Michigan’s autoworkers need a new trade agreement that will help strengthen their industry. 


Vice President Mike Pence and Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta each recently visited the state to discuss with Michiganians why the USMCA is a trade deal that works for — not against — Michigan. They both came with the same message: The USMCA is an agreement that puts Michigan manufacturers first and levels the playing field with their global competitors.  


The USMCA will help create 76,000 American auto manufacturing jobs over the next five years, and it will ensure more cars and car parts are made in the U.S. rather than by our global competitors. The USMCA also contains new wage and worker protections that will prevent auto industry jobs from moving to Mexico. Taken altogether, the American auto industry stands to get a boost of more than $683 million a year.


Michigan farmers also have a lot to gain if Congress approves the USMCA. Currently, our farmers must pay an extra fee to Canada in order to sell poultry, dairy and eggs in the Canadian marketplace. The USMCA will eliminate that extra fee, giving Michigan farmers access to millions of new customers.


Even though the USMCA is a win for Michigan workers and job creators, some lawmakers are withholding their support because they did not get everything they wanted in this agreement. The fact is, neither political party got everything it wanted, and that is proof that the USMCA is a commonsense agreement that will benefit American workers and job creators. It will be difficult for any lawmaker to explain why they do not support it.


The USMCA will provide a boost to an already-roaring U.S. economy, creating 176,000 U.S. jobs and injecting $68 billion into the economy. Michigan autoworkers, farmers and ranchers will reap these benefits along with families, workers and job creators from all walks of life across this country. No matter how you look at it, the USMCA is win for the American worker.


Voting to approve the USMCA should be a no-brainer, especially for Michigan’s members of Congress. Free and fair trade with Canada and Mexico is creating new, good-paying jobs and helping folks climb the economic ladder. To keep this train going, Michigan’s lawmakers in D.C. must put politics aside and put our workers first. Congress must approve the USMCA.


Andy Koenig is senior adviser at Trade Works for America, a 501(c)(4) coalition advocating for approval of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.