Steve Forbes: Passing US/Mexico/Canada Deal would bring big benefits to our economy

Outside of the ongoing debate over the government shutdown, Congress should act as soon as possible to approve the renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), now rebranded as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).  This deal is a win-win for American workers, manufacturers and other employers.     

After months of painstaking bargaining by President Trump’s negotiating team, this accord looks to set a template for modern American trade agreements in the 21st century. By all initial measures the USMCA lives up to frequently promised, but seldom delivered, concepts of free, fair and reciprocal trade.

The USMCA is the right deal for the U.S. because it puts innovation, and all those who help drive our technological and productivity advances, front and center.  Key to the continued promotion of U.S. innovation is the establishment of critical intellectual property (IP) protections that safeguard and reward U.S. innovations. While Canada and Mexico remain some of our closest economic allies, too often relaxed IP protections in both countries have undermined U.S. incentives to innovate and compete fairly in those markets. Instead, U.S. companies have faced the very real possibility that years and billions spent on cutting-edge R&D may be undermined by knock-off products sold in our neighboring countries’ respective markets.     

CRISIS IN VENEZUELA THREATENS TRADE RELATIONSHIP WITH US

When confronted with this type of trade environment, companies big and small become less inclined to put in the investments and resources needed to produce even more innovative technologies and breakthroughs. And that can present huge opportunity costs for U.S. industries, small businesses, start-ups and workers in terms of untapped markets, as well as the countless skilled jobs and the exponential economic growth that they would have provided.     

U.S. dairy producers will be big benefactors in this deal as products previously blocked will have more competitive and open markets to access.

Many people don’t fully realize how critical a vibrant innovation-centric economy is for the U.S. In the first quarter of 2018, the U.S. manufacturing sector alone contributed $2.33 trillion to the US economy. In fact, there are now 250,000 plus manufacturing firms that employ nearly 13 million skilled workers. An overlooked aspect of this sector has always been the diversity of products, operations and workforces. But the common thread that ties these industries together is a commitment to dynamic innovation which, in turn, helps improve economic output and the quality of life for millions of Americans.     

In a more free, fair and open marketplace, we also will see more standardization of laws and regulations across our borders which will in turn help to ensure that pro-innovation market incentives are protected and enforced.  Take, for example, the U.S. biotech and biopharmaceutical industries, which currently lead the world toward the development of cures for some of the most serious and far reaching conditions, including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, autoimmune disorders and cardiovascular diseases. Today, the biopharmaceutical industry accounts for 67 percent of R&D spending, thanks in no small part to carefully designed domestic marketplace incentives that encourage this investment. For many patients today and in the future, these advances will prove to be lifesaving.     

The USMCA would work to bolster this already robust research and employment pipeline by extending America’s incentive structure to outside markets. Leveling the playing field through an innovation first deal will reverberate throughout this sector’s 800,000 employees and 4.7 million jobs supported both directly and indirectly by the U.S. biotech and biopharmaceutical industry, ultimately supporting  countless communities and patients in the process.

Across the country we’re seeing a renaissance in and around our R&D pipelines across all sectors, with communities across the Sun Belt, Midwest, South and Mountain regions enjoying record growth. While not always viewed in a traditional industry context, farmers, life sciences manufacturers and agriculture technology companies also are poised to benefit from new markets and consumers thanks to the USMCA.     

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U.S. dairy producers will be big benefactors in this deal as products previously blocked will have more competitive and open markets to access.  For example, consumer demand for “Class 7” dairy products will help revitalize what has otherwise been a stagnant sector in the U.S. economy due to punitive treatment under NAFTA.  And through new rules on digital trade and copyright protections, U.S. technology and content-centric companies and workers will have more protections for their innovations than ever before.

Innovation is at the very heart of a thriving and growing economy and thankfully it is now the tip of the spear in our trade negotiations. Congressional approval of the USMCA would certainly be embraced by U.S. manufacturers and innovators, as well as workers, seeking to drive our recent and unprecedented economic progress even further. To this end, expedited consideration of the USMCA should be a key priority for policymakers early on in 2019.     

The USMCA is not perfect, but nothing is in the real world. This deal does immense good for the American economy and removes the kind of uncertainty that inhibits growth – producing investment. Congress would be derelict in its duty if it does not pass this great agreement.

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