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Pence-glyndon-mn-2019-johnson-farm-sized.jpg Lon Tonneson
TRADE TALK: Vice President Mike Pence, flanked by Ray and JoLyn Johnson, talks about trade with Minnesota Farm Bureau members while visiting the Johnson farm near Glyndon.

Vice President Pence pushes for USMCA passage

Hurdles remain before new North American trade deal can advance in Congress.

Vice President Mike Pence, while speaking in Glyndon, Minn., on May 9, urged Congress and House Agriculture Committee chairman Collin Peterson (D., Minn.) to push for a vote on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

“USMCA will pass,” Pence said in comments to farmers. The trade agreement, which replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), “is a win for American farmers, it’s a win for Minnesota and it is time for Congress to act and approve the USMCA.”

In a response statement the following day, Peterson said as a supporter of USMCA, he’s happy to make the request for House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Cal.) to bring up USMCA for a vote. However, he noted, the Vice President “knows full well that some straightforward hurdles remain before we can get this done. The Administration still needs to submit it to the House so it can be considered. The Senate has their own problems as Senate Finance Committee chairman Chuck Grassley [R., Iowa] and other Senate Republicans have told the Administration that the USMCA is dead on arrival without the removal of steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada and Mexico.”

Peterson added that the Administration has yet to give assurances that the tariff war with Canada and Mexico would end even if USMCA is passed. “Passing USMCA will do little to stem the massive losses Minnesota farmers are suffering in the trade war with China and the retaliatory tariffs from other countries in this multi-front war,” he said.

Peterson said he told the Administration months ago that he’d support USMCA if it didn’t screw up what has worked well in NAFTA. “From what I can see, the agreement won’t hurt, but it doesn’t win us the increased access the Administration promised us either. It seems foolish to dig a hole and then celebrate our ability to climb back out of it, but we are where we are,” he said.

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) said in a statement Friday that U.S. pork has suffered from a disproportionate share of retaliation due to trade disputes with Mexico and China. “This retaliation turned last year — which analysts had forecast to be profitable — into a very unprofitable time for U.S. pork producers. The financial pain continues; the 20% punitive tariff on pork exported to Mexico alone amounts to a whopping $12 loss per animal,” NPPC president David Herring said in a statement.

NPPC director of international affairs Maria Zieba spoke Thursday at a congressional briefing on USMCA and agricultural trade in North America. In her remarks, she highlighted the importance of the Canadian and Mexico markets for U.S. pork. In 2018, Canada and Mexico took more than 40% of U.S. pork exports by volume, and they are on track to make up a large percentage this year as well. USMCA preserves zero-tariff trade for U.S. pork in North America.

“In short, farmers are hurting, and they are terrified about what would happen if the Trump Administration pulled out of NAFTA without a replacement. I am supporting USMCA to provide some certainty,” Peterson said.

Earlier in the week, more than 60 food and agricultural associations and companies sent a letter to every member of Congress strongly supporting ratification of USMCA and asking for their vote.

Editor's Note: Lon Tonneson, editor of sister publication Dakota Farmer, contributed to this report.

TAGS: Policy
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