Daily Herald: Laura Crawford: Trade deal will reassure and modernize Illinois' export economy

Laura Crawford: Trade deal will reassure and modernize Illinois' export economy
Daily Herald
By Laura Crawford
Nov. 1, 2019

International trade is a central piece of the Illinois economy. The quality products created right here in the Prairie State are sought after by nations around the world. In fact, in 2018 alone, Illinois exported more than $60 billion worth of manufactured goods across the globe. Still, our two most important international trading partners are, by far, Canada and Mexico.

Our North American neighbors alone purchase more than two-fifths of our state's total global manufacturing exports, and there are over 69,000 jobs in Illinois directly tied to manufacturing exports to these countries, according to the National Association of Manufacturers. This means that if we want our state economy to keep growing and our businesses to remain competitive in the global market, we need a strong North American trade agreement.

For more than two decades, the U.S. has benefitted from free and open trade with Canada and Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement. When NAFTA was ratified in 1994, it was a groundbreaking agreement -- ultimately leading to the U.S. tripling trade with Mexico and Canada.

However, in today's new-age economy, we need a stronger agreement that encompasses and levels the playing field and addresses new issues, such as the digital economy.

When NAFTA was originally created, nobody imagined that most business would be conducted online, much less the challenges that come along with that, including intellectual property theft and more.

That is why Congress is reviewing a new agreement known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The USMCA would not only add new and improved digital rules and further protect U.S. businesses from unfair trade practices, but it would boost job creation.

In fact, the U.S. International Trade Commission found that the USMCA would increase U.S. employment by 176,000 and add up to $68.2 billion to U.S. GDP.

It is time for Congress to move ahead and ratify the USMCA. Every day that passes without the USMCA in place creates unnecessary uncertainty for Illinois's business owners, workers and their families. Our state's ability to sell more American-made products to Canada and Mexico is dependent on tariff-free and rules-based trade.

The National Association of Manufacturers just released its Manufacturers' Outlook Survey for the third quarter of 2019. The study found that 63 percent of manufacturers surveyed were "concerned about trade uncertainties." In addition, small business optimism is down, and consumer confidence is sliding.

The passage of the USMCA will bring our trade policies into the 21st century and provide much needed certainty to millions of American businesses and workers, which is exactly why Congress must act this autumn to ratify this critical agreement.

Laura Crawford is president and CEO of Chamber630, one of the largest business organizations in DuPage County.

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