Opinion: Key trade bill should be brought up for vote

The U.S. Capitol. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)
The U.S. Capitol. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)

More than eight years ago, the people of Forsyth and Gwinnett Counties sent me to Washington with a clear and unmistakable message: protect their values and advance policies that are good for 7th District families, the state of Georgia, and the country. The political pendulum inevitably swings. We are not strangers to witnessing political parties, fresh off the campaign trail, return to Washington with their electoral rhetoric in tow – Republicans in 2010 and Democrats in 2018 – and push partisan ideas at the expense of bipartisan solutions. While such partisanship usually subsides after a few months, it seems to have lingered longer than usual in this Congress, threatening to undermine the unique opportunity of politically divided government to achieve important national goals.

Instead of focusing on fanciful far left wish-lists like the Green New Deal or nationalized health care, Congress has the opportunity to focus on policies that will help hard-working Americans pay their bills. The United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA) fits squarely in that category, and it should be the number one priority on each lawmaker’s “to do” list. It enjoys the support of Georgians from every political ideology. That’s because more than 380,000 jobs in Georgia are supported by trade with Canada and Mexico, according to Trade Partnership Worldwide, and the USMCA will strengthen the state’s economic outlook for future generations in manufacturing sectors ranging from agriculture commodities, motor vehicles, carpets, tractors, and civilian aircraft to name a few. I can safely say that the USMCA is the most successful trade deal of my adult lifetime, and I believe it will be one of, if not the most, beneficial trade deals ever for the State of Georgia.

Right now, under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Canada and Mexico are Georgia’s top export markets. The National Association of Manufacturers found that Georgia’s motor vehicle exports to our North American neighbors have increased more than four-fold, and our chemical exports have increased more than 70 percent in the last decade – that’s real growth under NAFTA! And under a renegotiated USMCA, the International Trade Commission estimates that American exports to Canada will increase by $19 billion and exports to Mexico by $14 billion. In 2018, a quarter of Georgia’s exports went to Mexico and Canada. The USMCA will give us more robust access to two of our top five trading partners, which will support our workers and manufacturers even more. That economic growth will lead to greater foreign investments in our state and national economies and will create thousands of jobs for Americans.

Obviously, politics shouldn’t get in the way of such a universally beneficial trade deal, unfortunately, some liberal lawmakers and pundits have argued that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) shouldn’t move the bill as it might “give President Trump a victory,” especially as the 2020 campaign cycle gets under way. I adamantly reject that notion, and so do the 12 million Americans whose jobs rely on trade with Canada and Mexico, and so should every American. USMCA isn’t a victory for the President or the Speaker, for Republicans or Democrats; it is a victory for the working men and women of American, and isn’t that what every federal elected official was sent to do?

I am here to share with you the good news that the House and Senate have the votes to pass the USMCA if it were brought to the floor tomorrow. The bad news is that there are likely more Republican votes than Democratic votes in the House, and that is contributing to our current stalemate. Let me be clear: Speaker Pelosi has been working in good faith to rally her caucus. But with the chattering class of pundits—particularly with the spectacle around the cavalier treatment of impeachment — she and the President both need all of our support to bring the USMCA to a vote. We collectively must rise above partisan politics and stand up for America.

Approval of the USMCA will ensure U.S. and Georgia manufacturers, farmers, and service providers can continue to access Canadian and Mexican markets. By modernizing our decades-old free trade agreement, we can guarantee free and fair trade in these markets and meet the demands of today’s business and digital environments. The USMCA achieves our shared goals, preserves our shared values, and provides crucial value to Georgia’s and America’s future.

U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall represents Georgia’s 7th Congressional District.