USMCA Trade Pact Clears House Hurdle, Moves to Senate
The grocery retail sector and the suppliers that stock their shelves both expressed their support for the U.S. House of Representatives’ Dec. 19 vote to approve the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) by a bipartisan 385-41 margin. The trade agreement now moves to the Senate for ratification in the new year. Once Congress acts, President Donald Trump is expected to sign the agreement.
“The USMCA updates and builds on the benefits of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), bringing it into the 21st century,” noted Andy Harig, VP of tax, trade, sustainability and policy development at the Arlington, Va.-based Food Marketing Institute, which represents around 1,000 member companies. “It secures existing supply chains, promotes economic growth and job creation, and modernizes a number of provisions to reflect current business models and approaches. For the first time, USMCA addresses online commerce and biotechnology products. It also establishes modern, science-based sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards.”
Continued Harig: “Passing the USMCA is of vital importance to the food retail industry. FMI will continue to work with House and Senate leadership to make sure the legislation crosses the finish line in 2020.”
Referring to USMCA as “an agreement that will encourage free trade and increase economic growth for independent grocers,” Molly Pfaffenroth, director of government relations at the Arlington-based National Grocers Association, which represents the independent grocery sector, said: “Our members rely on quality imported products from Canada and Mexico, and USMCA ensures grocers can provide for communities across the nation. We look forward to the Senate approving the agreement ASAP so that Main Street Grocers can operate with certainty in 2020.”
“North America is core to Walmart’s operations as a global company with more than 2,800 Walmart retail units in Mexico and Canada, supporting nearly 430,000 jobs, in addition to more than 5,000 U.S. stores and clubs and 1.5 million U.S. jobs,” observed the Bentonville, Ark.-based mega-retailer, which is No. 1 on Progressive Grocer’s 2019 Super 50 list of the top grocers in the United States. “Walmart and our customers will benefit from the free flow of goods and services under the USMCA. In addition, new commitments on digital trade and trade facilitation will enable us to take advantage of an integrated ecommerce marketplace in North America.”
“For the fresh produce industry, this is a welcomed achievement as we continue to meet the demands from consumers for increased availability of healthy fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Tom Stenzel, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association, adding that “we believe this new trade agreement will strengthen our partnership between the three countries and provide essential cooperation in the fresh fruit and vegetable industry.”
“We commend the efforts that brought the successful passage of USMCA in the House of Representatives,” noted Laurie Fischer, CEO of the Green Bay, Wis.-based American Dairy Coalition. “This marks a critical step in improving market access and building better trade relationships with Canada and Mexico. U.S. dairy farmers can feel some increased security in this crucial agreement.”