COLUMN: A Monumental Week for U.S. Trade

January 20, 2020
Weekly Column and Op-Ed

In Central Washington, we understand how reliant our economy is on international trade. From our flourishing agriculture industry to our small business and manufacturers, we all feel the effects of strong trade agreements with our global partners. Not only do our producers export the majority of food and agriculture products to other countries, but 40% of our state’s jobs are reliant on trade – from production to packing to transportation.

For the past several decades, the United States has fallen victim to unfair trading agreements with three of our biggest partners: China, Canada, and Mexico. Outdated agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was written before we adopted mainstream use of the Internet, have left the U.S. at a disadvantage.

China, which is Washington state’s largest international trading partner, has unfairly exploited our trade policies for decades. Both of our economies rely on one another to prosper, but we have never had a President or an Administration who was willing to stand up for American producers or manufacturers.

When he was elected, President Trump set out to change that. Not only did he campaign on the promise that he would modernize NAFTA and negotiate a deal with our neighbors to the north and the south that benefited the United States, but he was willing to take on China, a country that has been profiting off U.S. Intellectual Property and refusing to import some of our most high-quality goods.

This week, the United States took monumental steps to level the playing field for American industries.

President Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He signed Phase One of a U.S.-China trade agreement. The agreement guarantees that China will purchase at least $80 billion of American agriculture products over the next two years, including several crops we produce right here in Central Washington from apples and cherries to potatoes and hops. Additionally, China is committing to importing manufactured goods like solar-grade polysilicon, which is produced in Moses Lake.

The U.S. Senate also made a significant advancement in approving the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). This agreement, negotiated by President Trump and U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer, brings NAFTA into the 21st Century, maintaining duty-free access for U.S. agricultural goods and expanding access into Canada for two industries that are critical for Central Washington: dairy and wine.

Our industries have felt the impact of these ongoing negotiations, but farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers throughout our District understand that their short-term sacrifices will lead to long-term gain. This week, we made progress, and the long-term gain is starting to be realized.