WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump signed a new trade agreement with Mexico and Canada into law Wednesday, solidifying a deal that restores some trade certainty to farmers in Colorado.
The treaty, called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), maintains trade practices in Southwest Colorado from the original North American Free Trade Agreement, but it also gives American dairy and poultry exports greater market access, said U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez.
The USMCA also adds new climate standards and provides measures for enforcing those standards, something that the North American Free Trade Agreement did not do.
“The U.S., Canada and Mexico have made historic progress restoring trade certainty for years to come,” Tipton said in a news release. “This deal has the potential to significantly boost the economy in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District.”
Taylor Szilagyi, director of policy communications at the Colorado Farm Bureau, said the USMCA trade agreement is something the organization has been pushing for.
Colorado is Canada’s biggest supplier of beef, and beef accounts for more than $880 million of goods shipped to Mexico and Canada from Colorado.
While there are not a ton of changes that affect Colorado producers, the stable export market and the ability for farmers to open their markets is a big win for them in the state, Szilagyi said.
Bill Hammerich, chief executive officer of the Colorado Livestock Association, said that from a beef standpoint, the stability the USMCA secures is important for ranchers across the state. The deal also enhances the market for beef products that don’t have a high demand in the United States, such as beef heart, liver and tripe, Hammerich told The Durango Herald.
The trade agreement will also allow for the export of fresh potatoes to Mexico, which is an important crop in Colorado, Hammerich said.
“We’ve had a nice run here,” Hammerich said in reference to the USMCA trade deal and Phase 1 of a trade deal reached this month with China. The reduction of tariffs with Japan will also be a stride forward, he said.
Overall, Colorado, Mexico and Canada trade more than $2.7 billion of goods between countries, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., said in a news release.
“Nearly a quarter-million jobs and billions of dollars of our economy in Colorado are dependent on trade with our North American neighbors, and I’m proud to have supported USMCA to give all of Colorado’s exporters the best chance to access these markets and opportunities,” Gardner said.
Colorado exported more than $47 million of dairy products, $33 million of cereals and $28 million of sugar and confectionery exports to Canada and Mexico in 2018, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
But a handful of senators, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., opposed the agreement, saying provisions in USMCA did not do enough to curb pollution from the agriculture industry.
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., supported USMCA because it is “vital for Colorado’s economy, from businesses on the Front Range to ranchers on the West Slope,” he said at a Senate Finance Committee meeting earlier this month.
“We have to be honest: Passing the USMCA will not ease the enormous pain and uncertainty from the administration’s feckless trade policy over the last three years,” Bennet said at the committee hearing.
Szilagyi with the Colorado Farm Bureau said, “Trade has been squishy in the past couple years,” so the organization is excited to see the agreement will provide stability for farmers.
Mexico has ratified the deal, and Canada is expected to ratify it soon.
Emily Hayes is a graduate student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald.