In the more than 25 years since the United States, Mexico and Canada struck the first North American trade deal, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), manufacturing output in the U.S. has more than doubled, exports to Canada and Mexico have tripled, and our economy has changed dramatically, with technology and innovation leading this transformation. It has become clearer than ever that our trading policies with Canada and Mexico need to be modernized — which is why Congress must take action and ratify the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) promptly.

Last week, I was fortunate to join Vice President Mike Pence and manufacturers from throughout the state to not only celebrate a major milestone for SCHOTT North America, but to urge Congress to act on USMCA — one of our industry’s biggest priorities. The vice president echoed our industry’s sentiment that this trade deal is critical to every manufacturer in the state and the entire U.S. economy.

Workers and businesses in Pennsylvania need this certainty now, not later. Uncertainty, specifically around U.S. trade policy, is deterring businesses from hiring, expanding and giving back to the community, and it is hurting the manufacturing sector. Each day that passes without the USMCA is a lost opportunity for hundreds of thousands of small businesses and manufacturers across the country.

As an advocate for Northeast Pennsylvania’s manufacturers, I’ve seen the positive impact of trade with Mexico and Canada firsthand. Over the last two decades, tariff-free and rules-based trade has continuously created well-paying jobs for hardworking Americans and has opened markets for many small- and medium-sized businesses. As a result, our economy has grown, and more American-made products are enjoyed by consumers worldwide.

North American trade also has contributed to the resurgence of the manufacturing sector —particularly in Pennsylvania. Despite only representing 4 percent of the global economy, Canada and Mexico buy more than two-fifths of our state’s total global manufacturing exports, from steel and chemicals to machinery, food and even clothing, according to the National Association of Manufacturers. That is pretty significant, especially because our diverse range of exports supports more than 42,900 manufacturing jobs, which are typically full-time, skilled and higher paying employment opportunities.

The USMCA wouldn’t only generate more opportunities for manufacturers here in Pennsylvania, it also would maintain tariff-free trade and implement new, 21st-century trading guidelines. These include strengthened intellectual property protections, new digital rules and less restrictive red tape. The provisions would level the playing field for smaller businesses and provide them with the certainty they need to confidently sell products throughout the North American market.

The economic implications of the USMCA are strong, and it is absolutely critical for the future of many businesses who rely on exports. Ratifying this agreement would ensure that we have the economic landscape to continue expanding, hiring and investing in our communities. It also would create a more competitive environment in the U.S., leading to more products with the label, “Made in America.”

Leaders from the United States, Canada and Mexico signed the USMCA nearly one year ago, recognizing the benefits this trilateral agreement would have for each of our economies. Now, bipartisan support for the USMCA is growing in the U.S. Congress. Our elected officials, especially our own Pennsylvania delegation, must recognize the critical importance of the USMCA and ratify it immediately.

Darlene J. Robbins is president of the Northeast PA Manufacturers & Employers Association.

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