Opinion: USCMA a win for our economy, workers, environment

February 12, 2020
Contributed Columns

In December 2019, I voted to pass the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a new North American trade deal that will improve international trade with our neighbors to the north and south, protect our workers and environment, and create enforcement provisions to ensure all that trading partners are held accountable.

Last month, I was pleased to see the agreement move through the Senate and to the president’s desk for a signature.

Over the last year, I have sat down with businesses of all sizes across our state to hear about the changes they needed to see in order to succeed and continue to offer services and jobs to Arizona families. I also personally met with Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative, on several occasions to negotiate provisions within this important agreement.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2018, Arizona had $20.4 billion in total trade with potential USMCA markets, and, according to the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, between 1994 and 2017, Arizona’s exports to Mexico grew from $2.4 billion per year to $7.7. billion — a 311% increase.

Currently, over 200,000 jobs in Arizona alone depend on trade with Mexico and Canada. A study from the International Trade Commission found that the USMCA, if ratified, would add an estimated $68.2 billion to the economy and create 176,000 new jobs.

When it comes to our state’s growing economy, creating good-quality jobs that support a family is a key priority of mine. According to a recent study by the University of Arizona, our state is attracting new residents at one of the highest rates in the entire country. Arizona’s economy is not only growing at a pace that exceeds that of our thriving national economy, but is also diversifying away from one main sector—construction and real estate—to include other industries like education, transportation, and manufacturing.

The USMCA will ensure that new jobs in these industries are preserved and that new economic sectors can continue to expand and spur the creation of more employment for Arizona families.

Although Arizona’s job market expanded under NAFTA, the newly renegotiated USMCA is a bigger win for not only our economy, but also our workers and our environment. This agreement improves upon NAFTA by bolstering protections for our hardworking labor community, preserving important environmental standards, and enhancing compliance monitoring. I worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that these essential provisions were included in the final agreement language.

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement is a win for Arizona workers, rural communities, agriculture producers, and small and large businesses throughout the state. It is an example of legislating done right—thoughtful negotiations, consideration of input from stakeholders and experts, and bipartisan, bicameral support. I was proud to vote to ratify the USCMA and look forward to seeing all the good it will do for our Arizona, our rural communities, and our nation.

Tom O’Halleran is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives representing Arizona’s First Congressional District. A Democrat, he lives in the Village of Oak Creek.