Cantwell Calls for Passage of USMCA, Highlights Important Washington Wins

United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement will boost Washington’s export economy in apples, wheat, dairy, digital trade

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With the Senate preparing to vote on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) on Thursday, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) spoke on the Senate floor today and urged her colleagues to pass the agreement. 

“It’s very important to me, coming from one of the most trade-dependent states, that we continue to open up trade markets,” Cantwell said. 

In her remarks, Cantwell highlighted important labor enforcement provisions and assistance to Mexico, which Cantwell pushed to have included in the final agreement, to help enforce labor standards and level the playing field for American workers. 

“What we’re doing here, for the first time that I know of, is business and labor coming together and saying ‘we need to build the capacity within a country so that they can enforce trade agreements.’ This is a positive step, not just for Mexico, but a positive step for what we need to do around the globe,” Cantwell continued. 

The USMCA deal also includes important updates to boost Washington state exports, including agricultural, dairy, and technology products, and maintains important tariff relief for most U.S. agricultural products. 

“The United States can't lose shelf space to very, very competitive markets and then come back years later and try to regain it,” Cantwell said. “Let's be a world leader in establishing the rules for fair trade and pushing for provisions like we see in the Mexico agreement so we can move forward in making sure Washington products, U.S. products, American-made products, get delivered to a growing, wealthier world.” 

“We should make sure we're opening up markets in a fair trade regime to those products.” 

Included in the agreement are provisions that would benefit Washington state exports by: 

  • Implementing new digital trade provisions. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was negotiated and signed during the early days of the internet, does not contain digital trade provisions. The USMCA would add new digital trade provisions to prohibit customs duties on digital products transmitted electronically, such as videos, music, e-books, software, and video games. It also contains provisions on cross-border data flows and restrictions on data localization requirements. 
  • Increasing access to the Canadian market for U.S. dairy producers. These provisions are estimated to increase U.S. dairy exports to Canada by 20%, or more than $314 million per year. 
  • Removing barriers for wine, spirits, and beer. The three countries agreed to non-discrimination and transparency commitments for the sale and distribution of wine, spirits and beer, and labeling and certification provisions to avoid technical barriers for wine and distilled spirits. The agreement also addresses market access issues for Washington state wines in British Columbia. 
  • Ending the threat of tariffs. The agreement will end the threat of tariffs on key Washington state exports. Last year, Mexico imposed retaliatory tariffs on a range of agricultural goods, including 20% tariffs on apples and potatoes, in response to U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum. While the tariffs were in place, Washington state apple exports to Mexico fell by more than 29%, while potato exports to Mexico dropped by 21%. 

Other important provisions, such as the duty-free access to Canada and Mexico for most U.S. agricultural exports that was first achieved under NAFTA, are maintained in the USMCA. 

Trade with Canada and Mexico is critical for Washington state, the third-highest exporting state in the country. In 2018, Washington state exported roughly $9.3 billion in goods to Canada and $2.2 billion in goods to Mexico, helping to create more than 330,000 jobs statewide. From 2013-2016, Mexico was the top international market for Washington state apples, buying an average of 12.3 million cartons per year, with Canada second at 6.3 million cartons a year. 

Video of Senator Cantwell’s floor speech is available HERE, audio is available HERE, and a transcript can be found HERE.