By Eric Burkland and Adam Sharp
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 consecutive years of low prices for corn, soybeans, dairy, wheat, and pork.
At the same time, Ohio manufacturers are facing uncertain times. Despite solid growth in the years following the Great Recession, U.S. manufacturing has experienced a slowdown during the first half of 2019, spurred by declining global demand and trade disputes.
Manufacturing and agriculture fuel Ohio’s economy. Both could use a 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 trade certainty and strengthening America’s relationship with its closest allies, this new free-trade structure will provide a long-term boost to our state and national economies.
The USMCA would update the 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.
Last year, Ohio exported more than $54 billion in goods to 210 countries and territories. More than half went to Canada and Mexico. It’s clearly in our interest to keep North American trade taxes as low as possible.
When looking specifically at manufactured goods, Canada and Mexico currently purchase more from Ohio than the rest of the world combined. In fact, Ohio manufacturers in 2018 sold nearly $28 billion of manufactured products to our neighboring nations.
Moreover, approximately 103,000 Ohio manufacturing jobs rely on exports to Canada and Mexico, as one-in-three manufacturers in the Buckeye State — mostly small businesses — export to one or both countries.
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. These enhancements will benefit America’s manufacturers and ag producers, ensuring a level playing field. The deal will also strengthen and modernize America’s innovation engine, expand access for U.S. goods, and eliminate red tape at the border.
We simply cannot 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 needed stimulus that will benefit Ohio’s industries, workers, and consumers.
Eric Burkland is president of The Ohio Manufacturers’ Association. Adam Sharp is executive vice president of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.