I grew up in Northeast Ohio the son of a steel manufacturer. As a kid, I watched my dad put in the hard work every day to build on the opportunity my grandparents gave him when they fled communist Cuba to seek the promise of capitalism and the American Dream.
My dad grew his business from the ground up, going from five employees and only enough cash on hand to last three months, to a successful enterprise employing a few hundred people across the Midwest. As he did, I saw firsthand how important access to global markets is for Ohio businesses and the jobs they provide. In the face of volatile markets and ongoing trade negotiations with China, Congress must take up the United States Canada Mexico Agreement (USMCA) to provide certainty to our industries and stability to our markets.
Manufacturers and farmers across Northeast Ohio rely on our trading partners to reach more customers and create more jobs. Ohio is the ninth largest exporting state in the country with an almost 10 percent increase in 2018 compared to the previous years. Canada and Mexico represent our two largest exporting markets.
Our job market is transitioning into the 21st century and our trade rules should reflect that new economy. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was enacted 25 years ago, more than a decade before the iPhone even hit the market. Having read the USMCA text, read non-partisan analysis, and spoken with constituents and local businesses, it is evident this new agreement will create jobs for Northeast Ohio at a time when we need it most.
USMCA gives our manufacturers a chance to grow, compete globally and support thousands of Ohio jobs. It requires 40 percent of a vehicle be made in a plant where workers are paid at least $16 an hour and boosts the percentage that must be made in North America rather than overseas to 75 percent. It also necessitates Mexico pass laws that grant their workers the right to real union representation, which was signed into law by the Mexican president on May 1.
Not only is this good policy, but it puts American manufacturing and auto jobs first. These provisions level the playing field and deter outsourcing production to Mexico, protecting the more than 700,000 existing manufacturing jobs in Ohio and ensuring room for these companies to grow and expand.
Manufacturing is at the core of Northeast Ohio and failure to pass this trade agreement is a failure to protect that lifeblood. The recent nonpartisan U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) report was clear: of the expected $68.2 billion real GDP growth and 176,000 new jobs, “manufacturing would experience the largest percentage gains in output, exports, wages, and unemployment.” By passing USMCA, we can ensure Northeast Ohio will remain a manufacturing powerhouse for generations to come.
As for Northeast Ohio farmers who have faced increasing economic uncertainty in recent years, passage of USMCA will bring much needed relief. This agreement guarantees all agricultural products with zero tariffs under NAFTA remain at zero and eliminates portions of Canada’s dairy program that have prevented our products from gaining access to the Canadian dairy market. USITC estimates passage of this agreement would increase agricultural and food exports by $2.2 billion, with $226.8 million of that estimate resulting from increased dairy market access.
The more than 450 dairy farms in Ohio’s 16th Congressional District already impact Ohio’s economy by over $130 million, but this deal will expand their ability to place high-quality products on the shelves of Canadian stores. More sales mean more jobs and a stronger agriculture economy across the state. That is something we can all support.
Last week, President Trump’s administration took the next step in the legislative process to approve the deal. It is now up to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House leadership to set aside political differences and work together to pass USMCA.
When I was sworn in to Congress, I promised I would do everything in my power to bring forth policies that deliver new jobs, empower economic development and make Northeast Ohio a destination for families to raise their children.
For Northeast Ohio farmers and manufacturers, the facts could not be clearer. USMCA will generate jobs, boost our economy and strengthen our manufacturing and agricultural communities. Ohioans need a trade agreement that will protect our industries and our values, and that is exactly what President Trump has delivered. Now it is time for Congress to act.