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Iowa officials upbeat about revamped USMCA trade deal

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, shown here at a hearing in the U.S. Capitol in 2017, says the revamped U.S.-Mexico-Canada trad
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, shown here at a hearing in the U.S. Capitol in 2017, says the revamped U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal is “very welcome news.” (Gazette file photo)

DES MOINES — Christmas came early for Iowa farmers, manufacturers and others with Tuesday’s announcement that U.S. House Democrats have agreed with the Trump administration to an updated version of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.

“This is long overdue but very welcome news,” U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said of the tentative USMCA deal that renegotiates major portions of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has been in effect since 1994. “Passage of USMCA will be a significant win for farmers, workers and all Americans.”

Grassley said the revamped trade deal could create 176,000 U.S. jobs and should mean more market access for agriculture, new commitments in critical areas such as customs, digital trade and intellectual property, as well as the lowering of non-tariff barriers that will lead to higher wages and greater productivity along with more jobs.

U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, a Democrat who represents Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, said he has monitored negotiations to ensure Iowa’s workers, farmers and manufacturing companies were protected. He believes the agreement contains needed components such as “robust enforcement mechanisms, strong rights for workers, high standards for the environment and preserving Congress’s power to improve access to affordable prescriptions.” He said he was pleased with the tentative language.

“Now, it is critical that these provisions be accurately reflected in the final text and that Iowa’s working families will be the ones benefiting from this deal,” Loebsack said in a statement.

The deal must now be ratified by all three countries. A House vote, which was delayed as Democrats fought to improve enforcement mechanisms, is slated for next week. The modifications had delayed congressional approval, raising the possibility that the deal might not be ratified this year because Congress adjourns Dec. 20, and prompted criticism from President Donald Trump and his allies.

“This is welcome news and a relief for American farmers,” said Angela Hofmann, co-executive director of Farmers for Free Trade, a bipartisan coalition of America’s leading ag commodity and business groups. “Now it’s time to get the bill passed before politics can get in the way.”

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USMCA — which was signed by the three countries in November 2018 and submitted to Congress by Trump administration officials in May, would modernize and build upon NAFTA.

“Mexico and Canada are Iowa’s top two trading partners and are critical to our economy,” Gov. Kim Reynolds said. “Today’s announcement represents a positive step forward for Iowa’s entire economy. USMCA is a strong, balanced, and modern trade agreement that will create opportunities for Iowa families, farmers, manufacturers, and small businesses by expanding markets for our world-class exports.”

U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer, a Democrat who represents Iowa’s 1st Congressional District, said she hoped resolving USMCA would begin to provide some needed stability for Iowa farmers who have lost market shares because of international uncertainty. But, she added, it would not “be the end all, be all here” given other trade and tariff issues yet to be resolved.

“What we have here is something that’s finally going to do what the president talked a lot about in 2016, which is to stop the bleeding of American jobs, and then at the same time, hopefully, bring some back home,” she said. “I’m really proud of what the House Democrats have been able to do here to make sure that we’ve got those provisions in there to do exactly what the president had originally intended.”

Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@thegazette.com

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