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Other Voices: Ratifying NAFTA update would be good trade news

This Labor Day, members of Congress should be focusing on a great boost to workers in Texas, and every state for that matter. They could begin the ratification process for the replacement to the North American Free Trade Agreement, and complete it by this fall — certainly before the end of the year.

The new treaty — the United States Mexico Canada Agreement — was tentatively agreed upon by negotiators from the three countries nine months ago, but now must be ratified by their national legislatures. That’s a valid step in any democracy, but over the past decade the U.S. Congress has become so divided and partisan that it might not be able to agree the sky is blue. Republicans and Democrats need to put aside that trend and come together on this agreement, particularly as rumbles about a recession begin to be heard.

NAFTA, which essentially eliminated tariffs between the three nations, had some detractors, as would any major agreement. But most economists agree that overall, it helped the economies of the three countries, particularly the poorest one, Mexico. That’s important for humanitarian reasons, but a stronger Mexican economy also reduces the illegal immigration of Mexican workers that has become increasingly controversial in this country.

Texas is pretty far from Canada, though we do have some trade with our northern neighbor. But as the state with the country’s longest border with Mexico, our economic links to our southern neighbor are more important. They have been strong historically, and under NAFTA, they grew even stronger.

According to WISERTrade, Texas made $27 billion from trade with Canada last year but $109 billion in trade with Mexico. That’s a big number by any standard, and it clearly helps support many export jobs in our state. In turn, Texas consumers get access to some Mexican goods that would be more expensive anywhere else. NAFTA also helped raise standards for Mexican workers, another trend that should continue.

Trade has been in the news a lot recently, and not in a good way. President Trump’s tariff dispute with China has roiled markets and hit our farming sector hard. U.S. exporters and consumers would like to see this trade war settled before the 2020 presidential election, but that’s by no means guaranteed.

In this hemisphere, however, fair trade can get an important victory, and all three countries can benefit. Members of Congress from Texas — from both parties — should be leading this effort and helping to overcome the dreary bickering inside the Beltway. International trade is modern reality, and we can either enjoy its bounty or watch some other country do that.

Flags at half-staff

The U.S. and Texas flags at the News-Journal are at half-staff today in memory of those killed in the latest incident of gun violence in Texas.

They will remain at half-staff through sunset Thursday, according to an order from Gov. Greg Abbott.

“Midland-Odessa was struck by a senseless and cowardly attack today,” Abbott said late Saturday. Our hearts go out to the victims of this horrific shooting and to both communities in this time of loss.”

Please join us in honoring the memories of all those killed and injured by gun violence in Texas and the U.S.

Today's Bible verse

“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

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