Delegates like trade deal

Dec 20, 2019
In The News

Delegates like trade deal

Written by: Frank E. Lockwood
Published by: Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

All four members of the U.S. House of Representatives from Arkansas voted Thursday to approve the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which will govern trade between North America’s three major economies.

The all-Republican House delegation predicted that the deal would be good for people in Arkansas and nationwide.

The 385-41 vote for passage included 193 Democrats and 192 Republicans. Two Republicans, 38 Democrats and one independent opposed the measure.

The day before the vote, Arkansans on Capitol Hill predicted widespread support for the deal.

“I’m very excited, after three years of work … to have an opportunity to vote on USMCA, which I think is good for our state, good for the country, good for the world,” U.S. Rep. French Hill said. “It sends a positive signal that America is open for business and is a good partner.”

The lawmaker from Little Rock portrayed the agreement as the latest in a string of positive trade deals, including successful negotiations with Korea and Japan.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman said freer trade would be good for American employers and employees.

“The data I’ve seen shows it’s a $68 billion estimated growth to the U.S. economy. I know that Arkansas will benefit, probably, proportionately better than even some other states because we do so much trade with Mexico. I saw numbers that said that about 7,000 manufacturing jobs [in Arkansas] depend on exports to Mexico and Canada,” the lawmaker from Hot Springs said.

The completed trade deal might also put the U.S. in a better position as it negotiates a trade agreement with China, he added.

Trade between the U.S., Mexico and Canada has soared since passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, more than a quarter of a century ago.

An update was needed, officials said, in part to reflect technological and business-related changes since 1994.

U.S. Rep. Steve Womack said the trade deal would spur job creation and increase market access, giving a boost to Arkansas agriculture.

He also portrayed the trade deal as a landmark achievement for President Donald Trump.

“The president promised that he would do away with NAFTA and renegotiate an agreement for the betterment of our country and he’s done exactly that,” the lawmaker from Rogers said.

He expressed hope that the Senate would add its approval after the holidays.

Congress had originally been scheduled to leave Washington, D.C., late last week, but it stuck around an extra week, enabling the House to tackle impeachment, trade deals and budgetary matters.

U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford portrayed the trade vote as a good reason to remain in Washington.

“I’m glad to see us moving on USMCA,” the lawmaker from Jonesboro said. “That’s good, obviously, for farmers, particularly farmers in Arkansas. It’s good for American businesses trying to level the playing field.”

It also sends the right message to other training partners, he said.

“The rest of the world is watching. If we can’t close out a deal on our own continent, it’s going to be difficult for countries around the world to take us seriously when we come to them with a plan for trade negotiations,” he said.

It’s also important to find common ground with our neighbors in North America, he said.

“Canada and Mexico are, for lack of a better term, our brethren here on the continent, and we certainly ought to be in one accord with regard to our ability to do business in those two countries,” he said.

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