Just last week, the presidents of Mexico and the United States met in Washington to jointly acknowledge the entry-into-force of USMCA. Already, various actors are trying to chip away at this accord, risking its real benefits.
USMCA was not easy to get, and during the struggle to get it we came unnecessarily close to unraveling one of our most important assets, the economic connectivity between Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. But we did get an agreement, and that’s why two weeks ago I wrote here about its first day and how the USMCA should be used to address our continued trade challenges between our countries.
Outside of the agreement, the U.S. does have a robust set of trade remedy laws to address unfair import practices, and these practices are subject to a process and investigation by the U.S. International Trade Commission, not to the whim of politicians.
We have trade negotiators that can professionally consult and address our issues with our trading partners, and there are plenty of issues with Mexico such as haphazard application of food safety standards to lagging approvals of technology. In the past, the Consultative Committee on Agriculture set up between Mexico and the United States worked quite well in regularly addressing our laundry list of trade concerns. Having a regularly scheduled bilateral meeting with key agenda items is critical to resolving trade concerns in the context of the USMCA.
We should not forget that these kinds of political trade disputes have a real-world cost, in livelihoods and in this pandemic era especially, maybe even lives. For example, consider some of the food basket disputes that have occurred in the past with Mexico on items like poultry, pork, beef, tomatoes, yellow corn, sugar, seasonal fruits and vegetables, and wheat. Trade difficulties on food and agriculture products (and their inputs) do far more than hurt regional competitiveness. They raise the cost of what goes on the dinner table of every citizen, hurting most those who can least afford it.
That potential cost is just one of the reasons why I believe politics should be kept out of trade. People’s lives are at stake. But I am under no illusion that my vision is likely to prevail, especially in a U.S. presidential election year. Just because two smiling presidents celebrated the USMCA in the Rose Garden last week does not eliminate the unsettling likelihood that we are certain to hear more anti-trade and anti-immigrant rhetoric as the November election gets closer.
Those of us who are advocates for trade must keep pace with the calls for breaking ranks with USMCA. The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) revised forecast on economic growth for this year gives us all the reason to stand up for trade and the USMCA. The IMF predicts a 4.9 percent global contraction and a 10.5, 8.0, and 8.4 percent decline in Mexico, the U.S. and Canada, respectively. When our two largest trading partners suffer, the United States suffers. The economic fallout is already leading to massive job losses, more people being pushed into poverty, and rising rates of chronic hunger and starvation. I addressed the mounting crisis in more depth with Mexico’s former Ambassador to Canada, Francisco Suárez Dávila, this week in my podcast CrisisIbility.
Our North American region will face some major headwinds for the remainder of 2020 and into 2021. Now more than ever, we need to resist politicizing trade, stand strong, and together keep seamless trade alive and working.
* Devry Boughner Vorwerk is CEO of DevryBV Sustainable Strategies, Board Member of the US-Mexico Foundation, and former Corporate Vice President of Global Corporate Affairs at Cargill. Twitter: @DevryBV