North Dakotans are some of the world’s most productive and innovative people. For decades, we have excelled in agriculture innovation and energy production and are now paving the way for exciting new industries such as unmanned aircraft systems . We have a commitment to growth and exploration that is seen in our everyday activities.
This growth offers us great opportunities, like new jobs that have never existed in our state’s history. It also comes with dangers. As our communities branch out and participate in the world economy, it is the government’s duty to ensure they have access to free and fair markets.
The United States, Mexico and Canada have all agreed that we can do more to protect our citizens and promote a level playing field in North America. Leaders from our countries recently agreed to modernize the nearly 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement and replace it with the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
The USMCA stands to benefit our farmers and ranchers, the heart of North Dakota’s economy. Agriculture can be a volatile industry, so we need to do our best to ensure that our ag producers have as much access as possible to world markets. Today, Canada and Mexico are two of North Dakota’s largest export markets. We sent $4.9 billion to Canada and $244 million to Mexico in exports last year. The USMCA reduces tariff and non-tariff barriers for agricultural markets and increases fairness in the Canadian wheat grading system, improving our ability to work with our neighbors and close friends in Canada and Mexico. This increased market access broadens the customer base for our farmers and ranchers, thereby decreasing market volatility.
The USMCA also offers greater protections for our citizens and will expand our ability to be world leaders in industry and innovation.
Innovation flourishes in America because we protect our creators. Copyright laws and intellectual property rights ensure that our creators can commercialize and profit from their ideas as they share them with the world. When innovation stays in America, it is protected by our legal system. We often share our innovation with the world, however, because sharing our knowledge empowers others to better themselves and their own communities. This sharing creates a risk that our ideas will be stolen by bad actors. The USMCA offers protections for our creators, such as 10 years of data protection for biologic drugs which are created by North Dakota companies such as Aldevron, so that they will continue to benefit when they share with other peoples and nations.
The USMCA not only strengthens our current trading relations, it also opens the door for continuous improvement. As part of the agreement, a committee dedicated to focusing on small business issues will be formed. One of the committee’s duties is to promote an annual conference where business owners, academics and nongovernmental organizations will meet and discuss opportunities for future improvements to the status quo. This forward-thinking addition will smooth future negotiations and provide opportunities for innovation in governance.
The USMCA is a smart step forward for North Dakota and all of America. Lt. Gov. Sanford and I are grateful for the Trump administration’s work on the USMCA and urge our members of Congress to approve it quickly. We can’t afford to miss this opportunity to benefit our farmers, ranchers, business owners and creators.