Throughout the year, the New England Council was deeply engaged in efforts to secure Congressional approval of the USMCA. The USMCA would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was negotiated over a generation ago and does not account for the revolutionary advancements in technology that have taken place in recent years. Given that trade with Canada and Mexico supports over 620,000 jobs in New England, and the region exports some $18 billion annually to these two nations, approval of the new agreement would be a major win for New England, while also bringing trade relations with our neighbors into the 21st century.
In early February, Council staff began outreach efforts with White House staff and other business groups to advocate for the passage of the USMCA. In June 2019, the Council sent a letter to each member of the region’s House and Senate delegation in support of passage of the USMCA, highlighting the positive economic impact of trade with these two nations in the region. Also in June, members of the Trade Working Group came to Washington to participate in a “Hill Day” to advocate with elected leaders in support of the USMCA. The group met with either staff of members themselves in nine New England congressional offices. In September, Trade Working Group members participated in a second “Hill Day” and met with an additional nine New England offices. From the summer and into the fall, Council staff joined with members of a pro-USMCA coalition in meetings with five key New England offices to provide information about the USMCA and urge passage. In addition, opinion pieces written by New England Council President Jim Brett appeared in news outlets throughout the year advocating for the adoption of USMCA and touting the economic benefits to our region.
In late December 2019, the House of Representatives approved the USMCA by a vote of 385 to 41, with the majority of the region’s House delegation supporting the agreement. While the Senate did not act on the agreement by year’s end, the Council was grateful to the New England Senators who voted in favor of approval by a vote of 89 to 10.