The Virginian-Pilot: George Allen & Jim Hodges: Ratifying USMCA will benefit Virginia, nation

George Allen & Jim Hodges: Ratifying USMCA will benefit Virginia, nation
The Virginian-Pilot
By George Allen & Jim Hodges
Apr. 21, 2019

ALTHOUGH WE affiliate with different political parties, one thing that should always bring us together is the opportunity to secure and preserve American prosperity. That’s why we’re coming together, having served as governors from different states and different parties, in support of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.

International trade is a vital part of our economy and a means of sharing our American ingenuity and identity with the world. That idea may sound large and abstract, but it starts locally, with the small businesses and shop floors that export their products — and our way of life.

Canada and Mexico alone purchase more from the United States than our next 11 trading partners combined. And trade with those two countries supports 12 million jobs, including more than 2 million manufacturing jobs.

The manufacturing industry is central to our North American trade, and the implications for our states are abundantly clear. One in six Virginia manufacturers rely on exports to Canada and Mexico, and nearly two-thirds of those manufacturers are small- and medium-sized businesses. Moreover, Canada and Mexico purchase more than one-quarter of Virginia’s total manufacturing exports.

Without a free trade agreement, Virginia’s exports to Canada and Mexico could face as much as half a billion dollars in tariffs, raising prices on our exports and reducing our commonwealth’s international competitiveness. (And these numbers do not factor in the importance of high-paying jobs and activities related to our ports.)

Similarly, in South Carolina, one in four manufacturers rely on exports to Canada and Mexico. More than two-thirds of those manufacturers are small- and medium-sized businesses. And Canada and Mexico purchase nearly one-fifth of South Carolina’s total manufacturing exports.

These themes ring true in “red” states and “blue” states alike because everyone should like more job opportunities putting green money in the hands of working men and women. For that reason, we are putting aside our regional and political differences to call for policies that won’t just help one team or one state, but our one country.

More than just good business, ratifying the USMCA would be good for our neighbors and our communities.

Compensation for manufacturing jobs in Virginia is, on average, nearly $70,000 per year, while the average for all industries in the state is less than $50,000. American workers and businesses will depend on sound trade policy — namely, a renewed free trade agreement with Canada and Mexico — to continue the economic successes they have experienced with the help of Washington’s recent pro-growth policies.

The USMCA updates the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement to strengthen America’s innovation engine, expand access to Canada and Mexico and level the playing field for U.S. workers. Virginians want a trade agreement that protects the progress they have worked to build, paves the way for businesses to expand and grow and gives them the tools to compete fairly with their international competitors.

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