America’s vital trade relationships with Canada and Mexico are once more back on track, after a long-delayed deal between the White House and congressional Democrats to approve the new version of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement.
NAFTA 2.0 is called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, because President Donald Trump coined it, and he is nothing if not big on branding.
Given the choleric arguments on Capitol Hill over impeachment, it is good news that the Congress — the House led by Democrats, the Senate by Republicans — can work together with Trump’s office on a significant national priority.
Is the USMCA much different from NAFTA 1.0, which Trump — without justification, in our view — has called the worst deal ever for the United States? It is an update, not a rewrite. Nor does it reflect in the vast amounts of fine print the hostility to the principles of free trade that have been under attack from the odd couple of Trump and labor-union Democrats.
Rather, it is a case of economic necessity overruling the shallow slogans of politics.
The three nations of North America are neighbors and friends. Our combined future was recognized in the original NAFTA negotiated by the late President George H.W. Bush and ratified — despite criticism of anti-trade Democrats — by President Bill Clinton.
With the economic stakes so vast, it is crucial that uncertainty sowed over business in the 21st century, including tariff wars, be dialed back by national policy.
We are happy to see many Louisiana members of Congress back the ratification of this vital national priority. They should be enthusiasts for trade, of all the delegations in Congress.
After all, few states are more involved in international trade than Louisiana. Our port complexes along the Mississippi River, and to a lesser extent on the Calcasieu River in the southwestern part of the state, are vital players in commerce from our nation to the world.
Further, Louisiana is a huge exporter, from petrochemicals to beef, poultry and other farm and ranch products. With farm income hurt by the president’s long-running tariff war with mainland China, the approval of USMCA is more important to many families in our state than ever before.
We are always cautious where this administration’s approach to world trade is concerned. The president in 2017 jettisoned a proposed Pacific Ocean trade agreement that, like NAFTA, promised great benefits to the United States and the free nations of Asia.
The administration has pledged to make up lost ground — that should never have been lost in the first place — through nation-to-nation trade talks. That process also is important, if not the better path that a broader and wiser approach to trade would have brought to America.