GRAND FORKS — Though the United States has not yet ratified the United States Mexico Canada Agreement, its proponents are confident it will.
The U.S. reached agreement with Mexico and Canada in the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement in November. Mexico ratified the USMCA in June, and it appears Canada is making progress toward that, as well.
However, in the U.S., Republicans and Democrats continue to debate parts of the agreement and Congress recessed Sunday without taking action.
“It eventually will get ratified,” said Rebecca Bratter, the U.S. Dry Bean Council's executive director. Ratification of the USMCA is critical to the dry edible bean industry, because Mexico is an important customer, buying from 110,000 to 120,000 metric tons annually, she said.
“It’s our top single-nation export market,” said Bratter, pointing out that the bulk of the dry edible beans exported to Mexico are pinto and black beans, which are grown in North Dakota and Minnesota.
Mexico and Canada also are significant export markets for North Dakota’s manufactured goods, said Matt Gardner, North Dakota Manufacturing Council's director of government affairs.
North Dakota exports $5.8 billion in goods to Canada annually, including 9% agricultural, 4% chemical and 7% equipment and machinery. The bulk of the exports — 74% — is energy, Gardner said.
Ratification of the USMCA is important not only to the economic success of the commodities, including wheat, but also for the tone the agreement sets, said Neal Fisher, North Dakota Wheat Commission administrator.
“It is a very big agreement between three trading partners,” Fisher said. “This is a demonstration to the world, as we look at trade, how we work with our friends and neighbors."
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Concerns about USMCA are being addressed in Congress, Fisher said.
“I sense cooperation. There seems to be in recent days and weeks a cohesive effort to find common ground and make things work,” Fisher said.
“Access to the Canadian and Mexican markets is incredibly important to our agriculture, energy and manufacturing industries, which is why I’ve been pressing to get this trade agreement approved as soon as possible," said Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., in a prepared statement. "I led a group of senators in calling for passage of the USMCA on the Senate floor earlier this month and believe the Senate has the votes to pass the USMCA now.
"However, the bill needs to originate in the House, so we need the House to take up the USMCA, so we can provide greater certainty to our farmers and manufacturers,” Hoeven said.
“I think we’re making progress,” said Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D. “If it came to the floor, it would pass. It’s just a matter of getting Democratic leadership in the House to the floor for a vote.
“I’m hopeful it gets done in October or November… The key in the whole movement is to make sure we can get whatever negotiations done without renegotiating,” Armstrong said. "If we renegotiate the whole thing, it will come apart.”
Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said he is encouraged by what he hears about USMCA from House Democrats
“Their working group is working with Ambassador Lighthizer, who’s received significant compliments from many who are not usually complimentary of the administration,” Cramer said in a prepared statement.
“There is some governing momentum and functionality that we have not seen in some time, which makes me optimistic we can get this passed. Right now, Congress is waiting on Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi to signal she is ready to take up USMCA, and I hope she does soon. Our farmers need a win,” Cramer said.