Trade is a vital component of Pennsylvania’s economy. Each year billions of dollars’ worth of exports are sent out of the state to countries around the world. While U.S. policy should promote free and fair trade, too many of our key trading partners have implemented barriers that burden our economy here at home.
In fact, trade policy is especially important to our local economy because of its effects on agriculture. As one of the top 10 dairy, egg and poultry producing congressional districts in the country, ensuring a fair playing field for farmers in the 11th District to compete internationally is critical. A good first step is the newly negotiated United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
In Congress, I have expressed our district’s trade concerns to President Donald Trump’s administration. From hosting a roundtable with United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, to numerous meetings with the director of the National Economic Council, Larry Kudlow, and Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Peter Navarro, to phone calls with U.S. Commerce Department Secretary Wilbur Ross, I’ve been advocating for our district and Pennsylvania.
Recently, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue was here in the 11th District, where I brought together a diverse group of local farmers and producers to speak with him about the USMCA.
The USMCA builds on the work the North American Free Trade Agreement began in the early 1990s. But we should always be looking to update, innovate and modernize. One of the most common refrains I hear from our farmers is the need to access new markets — the USMCA provides just that. Specifically, the USMCA would benefit Lancaster and York farmers, as Canada would eliminate its class 6 and 7 price control systems, which have locked-out American dairy products from the Canadian markets. Canada would also increase its quota regimes to allow more American eggs, chicken and dairy into its market.
Also, for the first time in a U.S. trade agreement, the USMCA would include rules to address all biotechnologies, including new technologies such as gene-editing, to support 21st century innovations in agriculture. These important and forward-thinking changes will prepare our farmers of today with the tools for tomorrow.
Good trade policy is also critical to a healthy economy overall, because the benefits aren’t limited to just agriculture. Pennsylvania exports $14.4 billion worth of goods to Canada ($10.3 billion) and Mexico ($4.1 billion). Our top exports are chemicals, machinery, transportation equipment, and computer and electronic products. These exports represent hundreds of thousands of family-supporting jobs, many in manufacturing. Almost 10% of our workforce in Pennsylvania is in manufacturing, with the average annual compensation over $73,000. Small businesses comprised 89% of all exporters in Pennsylvania.
During his recent visit to JLS Automation in York, Vice President Mike Pence touted the many benefits of the USMCA, including those for our manufacturing sector. An innovative robotic supplier, JLS is just one company that would significantly benefit from the USMCA. Others would benefit from the intellectual property protections and the digital commerce provisions that help modernize our trade laws.
Proximity to major ports and airports also makes Pennsylvania a leader in trade, with several ports that employ thousands of workers. The Port of Philadelphia, along with Erie and Pittsburgh, together move more than 100 million tons of goods, with an economic benefit of nearly $50 billion. The Port of Philadelphia saw international trade rise 12.02%, from $9.58 billion to $10.73 billion through the first four months of 2019, compared to the same period the previous year. Our diverse region is well equipped to meet this growth, but we need a level playing field.
The Trump administration, in consultation with Congress and through local visits, has listened intently, and the final product speaks for itself. Our economy is the best it’s been for a generation thanks to vital tax and regulatory reforms — but more work needs to be done.
On his recent visit, Pence said, “The time has come for Congress to pass the largest trade deal in American history. The time has come for Congress to pass the USMCA.”
I agree. The USMCA is a win for Lancaster, York, Pennsylvania and America. It is past time for the House of Representatives to bring the USMCA to a vote. The time to act is now.
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker of West Lampeter Township is a Republican who represents the 11th Congressional District.