CONCORD — The renegotiated United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement attracted largely favorable reactions from political and business leaders from New Hampshire Tuesday.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed her Democratic leadership team was on board with the USMCA now that it includes labor and drug pricing concessions that she said improved upon what President Trump had negotiated last year.
Hours later negotiators for the three countries in Mexico signed an agreement spelling out those changes.
Gov. Chris Sununu, a two-term Republican, urged New Hampshire’s all-Democratic congressional delegation to follow suit and embrace the final agreement.
“At long last, I am pleased by today’s news that Congress has reached a deal with the Trump Administration to bring the USMCA forward for the vote that it has long deserved,” Sununu said in a statement. “The USMCA means greater access for New Hampshire businesses to the markets of two of our state’s top trading partners.”
Canada was by far New Hampshire’s number one source of foreign goods imported into the state, worth more than $5 billion in 2018 according to the International Trade Administration and U.S. Trade Online. China was a distant second with $1 billion and Mexico was sixth ($396 million).
As for exports from New Hampshire, Germany ($691 million) was No. 1, followed closely by Canada ($668 million), Ireland ($443 million) and Mexico ($420 million).
Jim Roche, president of the Business & Industry Association of New Hampshire, the state’s chamber of commerce group, hoped this agreement was a sign of more bipartisan cooperation in Washington.
”We’re pleased the administration and congressional leaders have come to a handshake deal on the United States Mexico Canada Agreement. The new proposal is vital to New Hampshire’s economy.
“More than 50,000 jobs in the Granite State are either directly or indirectly supported by free and fair trade. The USMCA will open markets to New Hampshire businesses, reduce red tape, and maintain our home field advantage in North America,” Roche said.
“At a time when there is fierce disagreement between political parties and between branches of government, it speaks to the bipartisan consensus that USMCA is the best deal for the US and New Hampshire. We urge our congressional delegation to support the measure.”
Among the delegation, U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, D-NH, came closest to endorsing it.
“Trade with Canada and Mexico is critical to the success of New Hampshire’s economy, and I am pleased that after months of negotiations the U.S. Trade Representative and Congressional leaders have reached an agreement that will support our workers and continue to move our country forward.
“The revised USMCA fundamentally strengthens labor enforcement and will allow us to improve access to lower cost prescription drugs for Americans. This agreement provides our businesses with the certainty and predictability they need, and I am pleased the measure will now come to Congress for a vote,” Pappas said.
Pappas noted earlier this year he had sent several letters to trade officials and met with trade Ambassador Robert Lighthizer about how this agreement dealt with the exclusivity of biologic drugs.
The final deal removes what had been a 10-year protection period for these drugs which critics maintain would have allowed drug companies to keep prices high.
Another significant change in this final version was including a provision permitting American inspectors to enter Mexican factories to check for labor violations.
This was a critical addition that helped gain support for this agreement from the national AFL-CIO union, marking the first trade agreement in two decades to win the backing of the influential labor group.
Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-NH, was the most circumspect in her views on the matter; she served on the Senate Finance Committee that has jurisdiction over all trade agreements.
“When done right, international trade can help New Hampshire businesses, consumers, and our economy thrive. In evaluating any trade deal, I want to ensure that it will help New Hampshire’s innovative businesses compete across the country and in the global economy, and that it meets the needs of our state,” Hassan said.
“I’m encouraged that Speaker Pelosi and President Trump have reached an agreement on the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement, and I will closely review the final details as consideration of the proposal moves forward.”
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, said she had her own trade experiences as a former chief executive.
“Trade plays a critical role in our New Hampshire economy, supporting job creation, expanding markets and creating growth for our small businesses. I am pleased to hear bipartisan progress is being made on negotiations between the United States, Mexico and Canada. Since I was governor and led the first New Hampshire trade delegation outside of North America, I have long been supportive of trade agreements that increase opportunities and growth for Granite State businesses while also supporting the American worker and protecting our environment,” Shaheen said.
“I look forward to seeing the details of today’s agreement.”
Rep. Annie Kuster, D-NH, also praised changes made to the deal.
“The agreement that was presented to Congress needed to be improved to ensure USMCA is fully enforceable, protects workers and our environment and preserves Congress’s ability to lower prescription drug costs. I am pleased to hear these improvements are reflected in the agreement,” Kuster said. “I look forward to reviewing the full contents of the agreement and working in a bipartisan manner to advance USMCA through the House.”