U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-Louisiana)
U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-Louisiana) calls the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement a great deal for American exporters and good for Louisiana trade within North America.
But the 5th District Republican also says politics are delaying the deal's movement in the House of Representatives.
The USMCA, which was announced by President Donald Trump last fall, is designed to modernize the more than 20-years-old North American Free Trade Agreement, which could help Louisiana's North American trade that values in the billions. The deal remains unvoted on in the House, however, while the House leader seeks changes.
“The administration’s trade representatives say they’re having productive talks with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats in the House, who are not yet on board,” Abraham told Louisiana Business Daily in an email interview. “Unfortunately, so much of President Trump’s agenda is stalled by politics, but Democrats need to come around on this because the new trade deal is certainly a great deal for American exporters.”
Louisiana's trade connections with Mexico alone mean big money. Baton Rouge in 2017 exported $1.3 billion to Mexico, the U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Administration reported, which was a 13.3 percent increase over 2016. Lake Charles had $1.95 billion in exports to America's southern neighbor in 2017.
North American trade impacts numerous aspects of Louisiana's economy.
“In addition to representing one of the largest agriculture districts in the nation, I am the only member of the Louisiana delegation who serves on an Agriculture Committee in Congress, so I look at these issues from a state level,” Abraham said. “The USMCA is great for Louisiana. Louisiana exports to Canada and Mexico totaled about $10 billion in 2017. It affects all of our top industries: petrochemical, oil and gas, agriculture, and manufacturing. Some 12,400 jobs in Louisiana are supported by agriculture exports. Canada and Mexico are two of our top trading partners, so we need a long-term deal that is fair and benefits all countries, and the USMCA does that.”
The USMCA would be a benefit to several areas of commodities in Abraham's district, the representative said. Producers of soybeans and corn would continue access to the multi-billion-dollar Mexican market, and beef producers would keep their lucrative market access as well. For poultry producers, the deal would give greater access for turkey and new access to Canada for chicken and eggs.
Dairy producers like those in the Florida Parishes would also see benefits, Abraham said. Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau, wrote on April 3 that the USMCA would give better access for America's dairy industry and would eliminate Canada's pricing scheme that he called unfair.
The absence of a strong trade agreement could have a detrimental affect. No tariff-free trade in North America could mean extra taxes for Louisiana ranging from $68 million to $2.6 billion, the National Association of Manufacturers reported.