by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
After another tumultuous negotiation, House Democrats and the Trump administration have announced an agreement to move forward with the USMCA, the flawed but salvageable product of lengthy and contentious efforts undertaken by the United States, Mexico, and Canada to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The Trump administration and House Democrats have been hammering out changes to the deal since Democrats took control of the chamber following last year’s midterm elections. Some of the changes have been positive, but serious flaws in the USMCA remain. …
… Improving enforcement and removing the biologics-exclusivity provision are shrewd moves that can help pave the way for future trade-liberalization efforts, both domestically and abroad. And those efforts can’t come soon enough. While the United States is treading water, the rest of the world is acting quickly to liberalize trade. In addition to the TPP, which is now moving forward without the United States, the European Union and MERCOSUR — a Latin American trading bloc comprising Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay — recently completed trade negotiations. Likewise, in September, 54 of 55 African countries launched the first phase of what will ultimately become the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.
Despite President Trump’s promises to quickly negotiate a number of bilateral trade agreements, progress on such deals has been slow. Instead, Trump has tinkered with the U.S.–South Korea Free Trade Agreement, announced a “mini deal” with Japan covering agriculture and digital trade, and secured a renegotiated NAFTA that looks a lot like the original. In the long term, a stalled trade-policy agenda would be a significant blow to U.S. competitiveness and geopolitical interests in an increasingly globalized world. The USMCA should be the first step in an aggressive push for expanded liberalization.