WASHINGTON, DC – Trade has always been important to U.S. produce companies, as exports represent an opportunity to expand their business once U.S. demand has been filled.
But never before has such pressure been on trade agreements with the U.S.’s top three export markets, Canada, Mexico and China.
Many speakers addressed our situation on trade at the United Fresh Washington Conference BB #:145458 last week, and those representing the Trump administration were positive that deals will be done, and they will be better for Americans than previous deals.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said September 18 that President Trump is standing up to the unfair trade practices China has done for many years. “We want them to play by the rules.”
U.S. Rep. GT Thompson, R-PA, told attendees September 17 he thinks USMCA would pass in the House of Representatives if it were introduced to the floor.
“China has to be laughing at us because we can’t get a trade deal done with our neighbors,” he said.
“It’s very important we get that ratified sooner rather than later,” Perdue said, and now it’s up to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, to introduce it.
“The only way people would vote against it is to avoid giving the president a win,” he said.
This week, House Democrats say USMCA will need the support of organized labor for them to support the agreement. Many in organized labor criticized NAFTA, saying companies would move to Mexico and elsewhere, taking jobs with them. That largely happened.
Democrats claim Trump is hurting American farmers by using them as pawns in these large trade disputes.
That has proven out with agriculture exports, including fresh fruits and vegetables, being hit with retaliatory tariffs.
But Democrats would also hurt many farmers if they hold up a trade agreement with our two largest trade partners and neighbors, just to make the president look bad.
I think we will see small labor concessions in the next few weeks in order to attract enough moderate Democrats to pass the USMCA. As Canada and Mexico have already agreed to it, no big changes can be added now.
President Trump would be wise to allow Democrats to claim some victories in the negotiation so they can sell that to their voters.
Hopefully the hundreds of conference attendees who lobbied their Congress representatives September 17-18 convinced enough of them that USMCA will be a major win for fresh produce companies.
Clarification: A previous version of this story contained comments that were provided on background.