Other Opinion: Trade deal a good deal for Minnesota


Any deal struck between House Democrats and the Republican White House can be seen as an improbable win, particularly now during impeachment proceedings. So an announcement last week that the two sides were able to come together on a replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, was as unexpected as it was a relief to Minnesotans.

There's no denying the huge economic benefit of unencumbered trade between the U.S. and its neighbors in Canada and Mexico. Canada accounts for more trade with the U.S. than all 28 European Nations combined and is by far our No. 1 trading partner. Canada sends 75 percent of all of its exports to the U.S., according to the consul general of Canada in Minneapolis, as he shared during an interview last year with members of the News Tribune Editorial Board.

Closer to home, two-way trade between Minnesota and Canada totals $13.1 billion annually. Canadians make 795,400 trips into Minnesota every year, spending an estimated $242 million here. Going the other direction, in 2014, Northeastern Minnesota exported $440 million of goods and services to Canada, accounting for 174,200 Minnesota jobs. That includes 1,700 jobs for Northeastern Minnesota.

No wonder then that farmers and others in Minnesota were watching as closely as anyone the past two-plus years as a new deal was negotiated, tweaked, and hammered together between the U.S. and its neighbors. Recent trade wars have only been amplified by difficult weather and other challenges here, particularly for Minnesota’s agricultural industry.

And no wonder politicians and others from our region, state, and around the country gushed last week as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, moved closer to reality. President Donald Trump had struck the deal last year with Canada and Mexico. The U.S. House could vote on it as soon as this week before sending it to the Senate.


“We hope this paves the way for final agreement," Minnesota Chamber of Commerce President Doug Loon said. "Trade with our North American partners means prosperity for Minnesota farmers, manufacturers, small businesses, and their employees. This agreement will create confidence in the markets and create new opportunities for workers across a range of industries.”

“Today’s announcement of an agreement is great news for our nation, and long overdue,” U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber, the 8th Congressional District Republican from Hermantown, said in a statement.

Disappointingly, in what should have been a moment of bipartisanship, Stauber didn’t resist taking an unnecessary backhand to a political opponent: “While President Trump negotiated this critical trade deal over a year ago, (Democratic House) Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi delayed the vote on the USMCA in pursuit of partisan impeachment. … After months of relentless advocacy from House Republicans, I am relieved Speaker Pelosi finally did the right thing for the nation and agreed to move forward with the USMCA."

Just as disappointingly, Pelosi, D-Calif., also didn’t resist making the moment political. "This is a day we've all been working to and working for on the path to yes," Pelosi said. "There is no question of course that this trade agreement is much better than NAFTA, but in terms of our work here, it is infinitely better than what was initially proposed by the administration."

Beyond North America, the deal will give Trump and his administration leverage in trade negotiations with China. A tentative trade pact between China and the U.S. also was announced last week.

Yes, as the Grand Forks Herald opined last week, “The USMCA is a win for Trump,” but it’s also “a good concession by Democrats” and “applauded by regional lawmakers, farm organizations, (and) chambers of commerce.”

With reasons for all sides to support it, the USMCA is “needed progress,” the North Dakota newspaper said. “So ratify it.”

Minnesotans can hope that happens promptly — and without any more politics.

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