By Gina Gutierrez: Pachuca, Hidalgo, Mexico
I am pleased, and relieved, that Mexico acknowledges the importance of improving our most important trade deal.
Mexico’s Senate last week overwhelmingly approved the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA), the trade deal that updates the rules that have governed North America’s international commerce for a generation.
The final tally was 114 senators in favor and 4 against. That is a clear vote for free trade.
This result means that after all the deliberation and diplomacy, the replacement of NAFTA is officially underway.
Now it’s up to the United States and Canada to follow Mexico’s lead and ratify the agreement as well.
“We trust our partners will soon do the same for the sake of a strong North America, with clear rules, attractive for investment, stable and competitive,” tweeted Jesus Seade, Mexico’s top trade negotiator.
In the United States, President Donald Trump tweeted his own encouragement: “Time for Congress to do the same here!” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the White House and declared, also by tweet, his goal of “increasing trade and moving forward with the new NAFTA.”
I know that the approvals of the USMCA in the United States and Canada won’t come right away, if they come at all. In Washington, a government divided between two opposing parties means that everything moves slowly. In Ottawa, officials have said that they’ll vote on USMCA only when the United States is ready to vote and not sooner.
I’m glad that my country acted so quickly and on its own. Here in Mexico, we appreciate the value of close trade ties with the United States and Canada—and I hope our decision to ratify the USMCA will build momentum.
I’m a fifth-generation dairy farmer, living and working in the state of Hidalgo, just north of Mexico City. We raise and milk hundreds of cows and calves plus crops for silage. Yet we can’t function without our trading partners.
From the United States and Canada, we import corn, soybeans, wheat, vitamins, medicine, fertilizer, pesticides, machinery, and technology. I suppose we could buy these goods from producers in other countries, but it makes more sense to shop close to home.
I haven’t read all the fine print of the USMCA: I’m too busy working on the farm! As I understand it, however, the agreement will have a bigger impact on manufacturing than on agriculture. So for us, USMCA probably won’t change the fundamentals of our business.
Yet it will do something of vital importance: It will offer stability.
Farmers confront changing circumstances every day, from shifts in the weather to fluctuations in commodity prices. Amid this need to adapt constantly, we seek as much certainty as possible. Above all, we want the rules of our business to remain steady and predictable.
For the last several years, however, we’ve suffered through an enormous amount of political instability and uncertainty. Last year, the leadership of our government in Mexico transitioned from one party to another. The same has happened recently in the United States. Meanwhile, everybody’s fighting over trade: slapping on tariffs, talking up trade wars, and threatening to quit a longstanding agreement that has worked well for all three countries.
Like most Mexicans, I didn’t think we needed to change NAFTA. But now we have, mainly at the request of the United States. We agreed to open trade talks. Then we agreed to update and rename the pact. And now we’ve gone ahead and given it our formal ratification.
We’ve done everything asked of us. At the same time—the Mexican patriot in me must speak out—we’ve been knocked around like a piñata. Bashing Mexico, it seems, is a game for certain politicians.
Our trading relationship is too important to both of our economies for this to go on. Last year, two-way trade between the United States and Mexico was worth more than $670 billion. We can’t afford to jeopardize this relationship.
Instead of arguing about trade, we should work together to address the challenges of migration, drug smuggling, and more.
Before we can focus on these other critical matters, however, we must resolve our trade disputes. Mexico has done its part—the part that others have asked us to play.
Now it’s up to the United States and Canada also to do the right thing and approve USMCA.
Georgina “Gina” Gutierrez is a fifth-generation dairy farmer in the central region of Mexico. Committed to telling the farmers story and promote milk consumption and it’s benefits through social media, Gina is the 2018 recipient of the Kleckner award and a member of the Global Farmer Network www.globalfarmernetwork.org