Weekly Columns

Recent data points to an economy that is firing on all cylinders. The country has added over seven million jobs since President Trump’s election, unemployment is at a 50-year low and wages are rising at a rate that far outpaces inflation.

American workers are benefitting, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do more to help them and our economy thrive. Congress has a responsibility to continue to foster an environment that leads to growth and builds on those record numbers. 

That is why Congress should move to take up the now-finalized US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), as it has the potential to provide another jolt to our already surging economy.

Our neighbors to the north and south are our natural allies and trading partners, yet our trade policy with them has not been updated in twenty-five years. The president and his team worked hard to get Canada and Mexico to the negotiating table to modernize our trade agreement in a mutually beneficial manner. The administration worked equally hard, across party lines, to ensure lawmakers in the U.S. were satisfied with the deal.

While my colleagues and I continue to review the final text of the agreement, it does hold the promise of being very beneficial for Arkansas. Canada and Mexico are the number one and two destinations for Arkansas’s exports. Arkansas is one of a handful of states that, in recent years, has consistently exported more than what it imported from Canada and Mexico.

The World Trade Center Arkansas—which has played a valuable role in connecting businesses in the state with international partners for over a decade—recently released a report summarizing trade and jobs data for the Natural State. 

The center's report underscores the value trade brings to Arkansas’s economy and reinforces the fact that the path to a more prosperous, long-term outlook is through opening additional markets for our farmers, manufacturers and small businesses.

The report notes that as of September 2019, trade in Arkansas supported nearly 350,000 jobs, representing approximately 26 percent of the state's total employed labor force. It points to a direct correlation between job numbers and trade, documenting that trade-related jobs in the state have grown six times faster than total employment over the past few years. Moreover, it underscores just how crucial Canada and Mexico are for Arkansas’s economy.

Natural State exports to Canada amounted to $1.2 billion last year. Our exports to Mexico totaled $870 million in that same time span. Combined, these two countries account for a third of Arkansas’s total exports. Nearly 69,000 jobs in Arkansas are dependent on trade with Canada and another 41,000 are tied to trade with Mexico.

Melvin Torres, the center's director of Western Hemisphere trade, praised Arkansas’s effective partnership with both countries for creating this “symbiotic and successful relationship.” That relationship appears poised to grow with USMCA.

Completion of USMCA stands to boost job creation and bring stability to an uncertain trade environment. A modernized agreement is long overdue, and an array of industries—including manufacturing, technology and agriculture—will all benefit from the certainty it will bring to doing business with Canada and Mexico.

USMCA, along with the recent deals struck with South Korea and Japan, will show the rest of the world that the U.S. is open for business. It will show our trade partners, China in particular, that we negotiate in good faith to reach mutually beneficial outcomes for all parties involved. Most importantly, it upholds the promise of continuing to unlock our economy’s true potential.