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USMCA to give state a much-needed jolt

The phrase “Made in Michigan” invokes a sense of pride for Michiganders.

Manufacturing and Michigan have a shared history that spans from automobiles to building an arsenal of democracy during World War II – and, thanks to President Donald Trump’s commitment to replace NAFTA with the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, manufacturing in Michigan will continue to have a bright future.

In Michigan, roughly 65% of our exports head to either Canada or Mexico, underscoring the significant impact the USMCA will have on our state. With the USMCA now officially in effect, Michigan is well-positioned to expand economic opportunity under this new deal.

The USMCA stipulates that factories in Mexico will have to meet similar labor and environmental standards as their American counterparts in order to make auto parts or assemble vehicles for the American market without paying tariffs. A minimum wage of $16 per hour, mandatory union organizing rights, and other labor protections that are generally taken for granted here will ensure that automakers can’t just ship jobs out of Michigan in order to take advantage of cheap, poorly regulated labor in Mexico.

Additionally, the USMCA significantly reduces the percentage of a vehicle’s parts that can be imported from China and other very low-wage countries, preventing companies from importing parts from overseas and merely assembling them in North America in order to receive preferential tariff treatment. This means more opportunities for American-made parts, and, if we are going to make these components in the United States, let’s make them right here in Michigan.

Reforms like those earned the USMCA a rare endorsement from the AFL-CIO, as well as approval from both the majority of Republicans and Democrats in Congress, something that has become all-too rare these days in Washington.

While the USMCA modernizes and solidifies our trade relationship with two key trading partners, it also serves as an important counterbalance to China.

For years, we have seen a concerted effort by the Chinese Communist Party to hollow out our nation’s manufacturing. China has deep reserves of cheap labor and engages in illegal trade abuses such as currency manipulation and intellectual property theft.

Through tough negotiations and positive developments such as the USMCA, America’s position is improving. China has made substantial concessions — including a pledge to enforce laws against intellectual property theft — as part of the “Phase One” trade agreement that President Trump signed earlier this year. That news also bodes well for Michigan.

Here in West Michigan, I have heard from job creators big and small, from farmers to manufacturers, on the positive impact that this trade deal will bring.

As we look to recover from the coronavirus, Michigan’s unemployment rate hovers around a stunning 20%. The USMCA provides new opportunities for manufacturers, agricultural producers, and small businesses to export their goods, expand market share, and create jobs.

Many said renegotiating NAFTA couldn’t be done, but President Trump did it, and, because of his efforts, Michigan jobs creators, middle class families, and employees stand ready to reap the benefits.

Bill Huizenga has served as the U.S. representative for Michigan’s 2nd Congressional District since 2011.

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