Today, President Trump signed the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA), marking a major milestone for trade among these three close neighbors. As I attended the signing ceremony this morning at the White House, I was reminded that finalizing this agreement has not been easy or without controversy, but is based on compromise and consensus across many views.
Passing a bipartisan trade agreement in 2020 with the United States’ two largest trading partners is a critically important trade policy development. The results show that Republicans and Democrats can compromise when it is in the best interest of the country. And, by modernizing and building upon the NAFTA agreement, our three countries have shown a commitment to free and fair trade that provides certainty to companies doing business across our borders.
For agriculture, generally, and our fresh produce industry specifically, the agreement does not make everyone universally happy. Are there competitive issues in produce that won’t go away? You bet! But USMCA demonstrates a commitment to consumers in all three countries to allow our free enterprise system to work its magic, providing access to goods and services that consumers want. We do not want artificial trade barriers that government installs, nor tariffs and regulations that skew the balance between market demand and market supply. USMCA provides a clear roadmap that brings certainty to growers, buyers and consumers across our supply chain.
Is there still a need for government oversight? Of course. No one approves of giving unfair advantages, whether in subsidizing one competitor or protecting another. Signing USMCA is not the end of trade disputes whether in auto manufacturing, timber or produce — it is the clarification of the rules so all players know the game, with an expectation that all will abide by those rules.
I personally appreciate the role that the United Fresh Board of Directors played in carefully examining all views and reaching its own consensus positions. Their leadership enabled us to speak clearly about this process over the past several years, whether to the industry, or to the Mexican, Canadian and U.S. governments.
Despite the challenges in finding consensus on trade policy, imports and exports are critical to both producers and consumers in all three countries. We now have an agreement that will serve producers and consumers in all three markets, as well as allied trading partners across the globe. The future of our industry in North America is bright.
Tom Stenzel is president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association.