It’s out with the old and in with the new trade deal between the U.S., Mexico and Canada. USMCA has officially replaced NAFTA and despite the weeks and months of negotiations and debate the new deal started rather quietly. That’s what happens in our ever changing news cycles and especially during a pandemic.
President Trump made clear his dislike for NAFTA even before being elected and he made good on his campaign pledge to negotiate a new deal to replace it. Although the old deal was in many ways good for US agriculture the new USMCA does provide some updates and hopefully improvements. Most of all it provides some amount of certainty during these very uncertain times although like any trade deal it will always be a work in progress. There have already been some bumps in the road as the deal began and lingering questions by all three trading partners. There undoubtedly will be tensions, threats and setbacks along the way but hopefully all three countries will remember how important each is to the other. 2020 began with optimism for agriculture and part of that optimism was based on USMCA.
It wasn’t that long ago that the new trade deal was a hot topic in the media and among farmers and farm groups. That seems like a lifetime ago now. COVID 19, social unrest and a presidential election year have bumped USMCA out of the headlines but they haven’t changed its importance. Trade deals are important but difficult. Each country wants to sell as much of their products as they can while often preferring to buy as little as possible from others. The often referred to “level playing field” is elusive and in the eye of the beholder. Like it or not, trade is critical to our overall economy and especially to our ag economy.
USMCA may not get as much publicity as the Phase 1 trade deal with China but it is no less important. Often times things that are most valuable are overlooked and taken for granted. There is a lot of that going on in our country today. Many seem intent on erasing our history. That of course doesn’t change our history but it can prevent us from learning from it. History, both good and bad, should help guide our present and our future. As we celebrate our country’s independence during this time of turmoil we need to remember that democracy like trade deals is always a work in progress. Mistakes are made but hopefully learned from. Hopefully our freedoms and democracy won’t become old news. The best trade deals are the ones where all participants do well. The same can be said for our society.