Senator Lankford Encourages Senate to Pass USMCA
CLICK HERE to watch Lankford’s floor speech.
WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today spoke on the Senate floor in support of the Senate’s ongoing work to consider and finalize the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which updates and enhances the existing North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that was put in place more than two decades ago. Lankford serves on the Senate Finance Committee, which considered and passed with Lankford’s support the USMCA implementing bill earlier this week in a vote of 25-3. Lankford’s floor speech specifically highlights some of the ways the USMCA benefits Oklahomans.
Beginning in May 2018, Lankford joined a letter to US Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer to urge him to consult with Congress to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) into what would become the USMCA. In July 2018 and June 2019, Lankford questioned USTR Lighthizer in Senate Finance Committee hearings to further consider the USMCA. Lankford also recorded two episodes (Episodes 2 and 8) of his podcast, The Breakdown with James Lankford, covering trade negotiations and the USMCA.
If I go back two and a half years ago, there was a lot of turmoil, a lot of conversation about the President of the United States stepping into the issue of trade, specifically in North America. It was a settled issue between Canada and Mexico and asking the question, ‘Should we revisit NAFTA?’ And at that time, a lot of people said, ‘This trade agreement is complicated. It’s hard. We shouldn’t touch that trade agreement. Just leave it alone. All of its warts, all of its faults, It is what it is. Don’t touch it.’ The President instead chose to be able to step into North American free trade and say, ‘No, we’re going to renegotiate this deal.’ It’s 25 years old. It needs a revisit. And against many people pushing against him, he pushed through that and said, ‘Let’s start all over again.’
In the past two and a half years, the Trump team has renegotiated a deal, brought it back to Congress, passed with overwhelming bipartisan support finally in the House—they’ve had it sitting on their desk for 14 months before they took it up. And finally after 14 months of taking it up, they passed it with overwhelming bipartisan support. It has now gone through the Finance Committee here in the Senate with a vote of 25-3 and is headed toward the floor of the Senate and to the President’s desk to finally get this issue resolved about North American free trade.
Now this issue between Canada and Mexico, I’ve had some folks say to me, ‘Why is it such a big issue?’ Well, it’s a big issue because Canada and Mexico are our number one and number two trading partners in the world. Far and away, Canada and Mexico are our biggest trading partners. That is a trade relationship that is essential, not just to every border state, but to states like my state. In Oklahoma, Canada and Mexico were also our biggest trading partners, and they’re vital to our success and our economic success and have been key to what has happened in NAFTA over the last 25 years.
But now after all the negotiations and all of the noise, we finally have some revised area in trade that needs to be addressed. Things like intellectual property, which is a new chapter for what’s now called USMCA or what some people call NAFTA 2.0. This simple change is not so simple in trying to deal with— how are we going to deal with intellectual property theft, whether it be a movie and camcorder recording in a movie theater somewhere in Mexico where they sell pirated copies out which has been an issue, that addresses something like that, or whether if it’s just ownership of patents and how things actually move from place to place and can you confiscate property that’s illegally produced at each border crossing and how is that managed? That is addressed for the first time in this agreement to try to protect American patent owners from not having their patents stolen once they leave and go to Canada or Mexico.
Digital trade was not a major issue in NAFTA 25 years ago, and obviously it’s a very significant issue for us now. That’s finally addressed in this agreement and how we’re going to handle digital services and digital trade.
Something very important to my state, and that’s agricultural trade and how agricultural goods are going to move. Now, the vast majority of this USMCA agreement lines up exactly with NAFTA in the past. But there are some areas that were problems in NAFTA in the past that had to be addressed. One of those being wheat, for instance. When wheat moves from the United States into Canada, Canada downgraded that wheat to a lower grade, and so our Oklahoma farmers would get less profit for that because they downgraded that wheat as it moved across the Canadian border. This agreement settles that issue. That was just Canadian protectionism. It wasn’t that the wheat was less quality, it was just that they were trying to protect Canadian wheat on that instead of having an actual free market. This is a free trade area. The tariffs and the fees go away across North America if we can have a level playing field. In areas where we don’t have a level playing field, like Oklahoma wheat competing with their wheat, we’re taking that on. I feel confident that Oklahoma wheat’s going to win that fight, and given this opportunity, with this new trade agreement, we get the opportunity to be able to win that.
There are lots of areas that help us in agriculture. There are areas that help us in digital trade and intellectual property as well as multiple other areas of manufacturing. That’s why so many groups and so many individuals have looked at this and have gone back to the Trump Administration with some of my Democratic colleagues begrudgingly swallowing hard and saying, ‘This is a good agreement for America in the future. This does help us keep jobs here. This helps us continue to be able to have a level playing field for trade.’
So I congratulate the Trump Administration and two and a half years of very long work to be able to get to this agreement. I’m grateful that we’re nearing an agreement with China, a phase-one agreement. That is much-needed because China has been a major problem in intellectual property theft, an unfair trading platform. I am grateful the Administration has also completed the first stage of a major new trade agreement with Japan. Those are our four largest trading partners, and it is significant to our economy long-term, not just in the short-term, but long-term that we continue to have stable free trade areas as many places as we can.
I’m confident in the American worker. When given the opportunity to compete, we win—because of the quality of our work, the quantity of our work, and the creativity of the inventions that we put out of this country. Let’s keep doing it that and keep winning around the world in our trade agreements.