When I served as governor of Pennsylvania, I understood that the number-one mission was creating quality jobs for the people of this state. That’s because growing job opportunities for Pennsylvania families — and protecting the jobs we have already have — is central to making our state a great place to live and do business. That intense focus on jobs paid off, with the unemployment rate falling from more than 8.4 percent to just 4.8 percent during my time in office.
Consequently, I believe it is critical for the United States to put a new trade agreement in place with our Canadian and Mexican partners. Trade with these nations is central not only to jobs in Pennsylvania, but is a cornerstone of the American economy. It has fueled our economic progress since the mid-1990s and built a North American marketplace of which we can all be proud. Simply put, representatives in Congress must not play politics with this trade deal. They must decisively pass a modernized agreement in the interest of Pennsylvania’s economy.
The numbers are telling. A new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is expected to create 176,000 new jobs across the country and add more than $68 billion to the American economy, according to a new International Trade Commission analysis. The USCMA will strengthen our fruitful trade with Mexico and Canada. Remember that Canada and Mexico, because of a well-designed trade agreement already in place, have become our nation’s largest trading partners, accounting for nearly $500 billion in exports each year — more than any other countries in the world. An implemented USMCA will boost these economic benefits.
A new USMCA is especially important for Pennsylvania, where trade with Canada and Mexico supports nearly 500,000 jobs across the state. Each year, we trade over $16 billion in goods and services to our North American neighbors. For example, Canada and Mexico import nearly 80 percent of Pennsylvania’s aluminum, supporting higher paying jobs right here in the commonwealth.
Trade with Canada and Mexico is also critical for Pennsylvania farmers, who export over 50 percent of their agricultural products to these North American nations, supporting more than 8,000 jobs and representing $1.2 billion in exports. Dairy farmers in our state send more than 70 percent of their milk and cream exports to Mexico. By removing protectionist policies in Canada’s treatment of the dairy industry, a new USMCA will help Pennsylvania dairy farmers. Our mushroom farmers have much at stake, too, since they export more than $200 million worth of mushrooms to our neighbor to the north.
Pennsylvania’s booming energy sector — and its reliance on trade and commercial relations with Canada and Mexico — further substantiates the case to pass USMCA. Canada is America’s top export market for crude oil and Mexico is America’s top market for total refined products, gasoline, and fuel oil exports. Carnegie Mellon University adjunct professor Jeff Kupfer has pointed out that Pennsylvania “accounts for 19 percent of U.S. natural gas production and 76 percent of Marcellus Shale production, which is hitting almost 10 billion cubic feet per day.” Much of this gas has been, and will continue to be, exported through pipelines to Canada and Mexico.
Finally, approving a new USMCA will greatly benefit Pennsylvania’s manufacturers by strengthening intellectual property rules, removing red tape for companies exporting their goods, and leveling the playing field through increased transparency. This is critical, especially considering that one out of every four manufacturers in Pennsylvania exports good to either Mexico or Canada and 80 percent of those businesses are small or medium sized companies.
There is clearly much on the line for Pennsylvania when it comes to a new trade deal with Canada and Mexico. Over 42,000 jobs rely on trade with Mexico and Canada and this deal will allow for the creation of even more export-related jobs here in Pennsylvania. That’s why passing a new deal must be about jobs, not a political party’s agenda. Members on both sides of the aisle need to work together to get this passed as soon as possible.
Businesses across Pennsylvania want to see a new USMCA completed this year. They are counting on their representatives in Congress to get this task accomplished. After all, it’s not a complicated issue. A new USMCA is about creating jobs here at home and helping Pennsylvania families build their future. The time to act is now.
Tom Corbett is a former governor of Pennsylvania.