The following op-ed was distributed to newspapers across Ohio for publication. It was co-authored by Adam Sharp, executive vice president of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, and Eric Burkland, president of The Ohio Manufacturers’ Association.
Ohio’s farmers are enduring a tough year, as more than one in seven acres went unplanted this season due to relentless precipitation and flooding. This comes on top of several consecutive years of low prices for corn, soybeans, dairy, wheat and pork.
Meanwhile, many Ohio manufacturers face uncertain times, despite solid growth in the years following the Great Recession. U.S. manufacturing has experienced a significant slowdown during the first half of 2019, spurred by falling global demand and trade disputes.
Manufacturing and agriculture fuel Ohio’s economy. Both could use an immediate shot in the arm.
That is why we are calling on Ohio’s members of Congress to ratify the pending United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) without further delay. By adding more certainty and strengthening America’s relationship with its closest allies, this new trade structure will provide a tremendous boost to our state and national economies.
The USMCA would update the free trade framework established by the 1994 North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), thereby ensuring that Ohio’s agricultural and manufacturing sectors have unrestricted market access to important Canadian and Mexican markets.
Today, Canada and Mexico purchase more manufactured goods from Ohio than the rest of the world combined. In fact, Ohio manufacturers in 2017 sold $27 billion of manufactured goods to Canada and Mexico, and nearly 103,000 Ohio manufacturing jobs rely on exports to these countries. One in three Ohio manufacturing firms – overwhelmingly small businesses – export to Canada and Mexico.
When you break down what this new agreement would mean for farmers in Ohio the outlook is optimistic, as Ohio agriculture’s two largest trading partners are Canada and Mexico, respectively.
USMCA contains significant improvements and fixes to North America’s free trade rules that will benefit America’s manufacturers and ag producers, ensuring a level playing field. The deal will strengthen and modernize America’s innovation engine, expand access for U.S. goods, and eliminate red tape at the border.
We simply can’t afford to let NAFTA expire without enacting USMCA. If tariff-free trade in North America is not upheld by the new deal, Ohio’s manufactured NAFTA exports could face more than $3 billion in extra taxes.
The impact to agriculture would be equally significant as U.S. ag exports to our border neighbors have quadrupled to an impressive $40 billion a year under NAFTA, including a third of Ohio’s farm exports that are currently purchased by Canada and Mexico.
So much is at stake for Ohio’s economy and its residents. We are counting on our federal delegation to support ratification of the USMCA to avoid a potential economic catastrophe. When members of Congress return to Washington in September, we respectfully ask that they urge their leaders to schedule a vote.
It’s time to put aside politics and deliver a substantial economic boost for Ohio’s key industries, workers and consumers.