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North Country officials hope for swift vote on negotiated USMCA

PLATTSBURGH — Local, state and federal officials shared their support after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Tuesday that House Democrats and the White House had reached a deal on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

“After months and months of tireless work, I am proud to support the negotiated USMCA,” North Country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, said in a statement.

“This trade agreement is a win for North Country farmers and workers, the North Country economy, and America as a whole.”

“Great day”

Back in October, Stefanik told the Press-Republican that passage of the USMCA — which would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) — needed to happen before the end of the year.

She said the agreement continues NAFTA’s zero-tariff treatment, expands access to the Canadian market for U.S. dairy products and includes greater intellectual property protections.

Stefanik and more than 150 other Republican representatives had sent a letter to Pelosi Monday urging her to bring the USMCA to the floor.

“Many hardworking families in my district have been negatively impacted by ineffective trade deals that have outsourced much-needed jobs,” Stefanik said Tuesday.

“As co-chair of the bipartisan Northern Border Caucus, I have been a leader in passing this long-overdue update which will benefit our workforce and economy for many years to come, and will expand markets for North American-made goods.

“Today is a great day for the North Country, and I am looking forward to a swift, bipartisan vote in the House to make this agreement official.”

Stefanik’s Democratic opponent, Tedra Cobb, said she is glad lawmakers in Washington “have broken their political gridlock to come to an agreement on trade.

“The USMCA will improve environmental and labor standards, as well as put American workers on a level playing field.”

Predictability

North Country Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Garry Douglas said no dynamic is more important to the North Country’s economy “than our growing and multi-faceted economic partnership with Canada.”

“There are certainly positive advances in the new agreement for dairy farmers and other sectors and these are important, but the most important thing at this point is the achievement of predictability and settled terms for the years ahead,” Douglas said.

Most of the area’s manufacturing community depends on “efficient cross-border supply chains” with Canada and Mexico, Douglas continued.

“Final agreement, hopefully followed now by swift Congressional approval, will directly support North Country jobs and encourage continued Canadian and international investment in our region.”

“Felt insecure”

Former 21st Congressional District congressman Bill Owens also hoped the deal would bring some much-needed stability and predictability.

“Our Canadian neighbors have felt insecure since January of 2016 which has created a hesitancy to invest with us,” he said in a statement.

Owens has had decades of involvement with US/Canada trade issues, continuing his consulting work in various forms since deciding not to run for re-election in 2014.

He praised Democratic moderates for pushing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to take up the deal when “it otherwise may have languished till next year, decreasing it’s likelihood of passage.”

But looking ahead, Owens said “the real question is whether the energy, angst, antipathy, incivility and uncertainty of the last several years produced any significant benefits for our region and the country as a whole.

“The answer according to the Trump administration is that the USMCA will have minimal substantive impacts on the US economy.”

Reassurance

New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher said his organization is encouraged by agreement on the USMCA and is calling for swift Congressional passage.

“The reassurance it will provide New York farmers, knowing that markets will remain open with two of our most vital trading partners, is welcome news to end what has a been a challenging year,” he continued.

NYFB members passed a resolution reinforcing the need to get the USMCA to the finish line at their annual meeting last week.

“The expanded opportunities for the dairy industry and continued trade free of red tape with Canada and Mexico will have long term benefits for our farms that need some certainty in the world markets,” Fisher said.

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