MCALLEN, Texas – Border leaders have welcomed President Trump’s signing of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

The successor trade deal to the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed into law on the south lawn of the White House.

President Trump signs USMCA into law on the south lawn of the White House. (Photo: Border Trade Alliance)

Many Republican congressional leaders were present but their Democratic counterparts complained they were not invited.

One border leader who was there was Border Trade Alliance President Britton Clarke. She said: “Today’s signing of USMCA marks a historic occasion. For more than a year, the BTA has been advocating for the agreement’s adoption. USMCA modernizes U.S. trade policy for the 21st century. We were proud to be on hand today for the bill signing ceremony.”

Britton Clarke watched USMCA being signed into law.

In his remarks, President Trump said there is nothing like USMCA. He called its predecessor, NAFTA, a nightmare.

“USMCA is the largest, fairest, most balanced and modern trade agreement ever achieved. There has never been anything like it,” Trump said.

“Other countries are now looking at it but there cannot be a border like that because, believe it or not, that is by far the biggest border anywhere in the world, in terms of economy, in terms of people. There is nothing even close.”

Trump made jettisoning NAFTA a top campaign issue in his 2016 presidential campaign. On Wednesday he said people doubted he could fashion a replacement.

“Everybody said this was a deal that could not be done, too complicated, too big, couldn’t be done. We got it done. And today we are finally ending the NAFTA nightmare and signing into law the brand new US-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Very special, very, very special,” Trump said.

Gonzalez’s perspective

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez
U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez

Congressman Vicente Gonzalez of McAllen welcomed USMCA but said more needs to be done to ensure safety and security in Mexico.

“The USMCA provides certainty to families, farmers, and businesses in the 15th District of Texas, but fails to address the growing insecurity that will continue hindering North American competitiveness absent concrete action,” Gonzalez said.

“I urge President Trump and Mexican President Lopez Obrador to prioritize the safety of thousands of people on both sides of the border and implement initiatives that make cross-border commerce and tourism more secure.”

Cornyn’s perspective 

U.s. Sen. John Cornyn said USMCA modernizes and strengthens NAFTA.

“Since this process began, I’ve worked to ensure any trade agreement protects the millions of Texans whose jobs depend on trade with our neighbors and reduces barriers for farmers, ranchers, producers, and manufacturers,” Cornyn said.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn

“The USMCA will bring our trade relationships with Mexico and Canada into the 21st century, and Texas will see serious benefits. From funding needed infrastructure to improving quality of life in border communities, this agreement is a win for the Lone Star State.”

Cornyn is chairman of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness.  He said he was grateful to President Trump “for his work to provide economic certainty and greater opportunity for America.” He said he looked forward “to seeing Texas’ already thriving economy become even stronger.”

In a news release, Cornyn noted that USMCA includes a provision he authored to bolster the North American Development Bank (NADBank), which was created jointly by the United States and Mexico in 1993 to preserve and enhance environmental conditions and the quality of life for communities along the U.S.-Mexico border. Since that time, NADBank has helped finance 63 Texas projects with a combined value of more than $1.7 billion.

Earlier this year, Cornyn introduced the bipartisan North American Development Bank Improvement Act of 2019 to authorize the Treasury Department to increase its capital and provide additional authority to fund projects related to limited natural gas and land port of entry infrastructure.

Cuellar’s perspective

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar worked with Sen. Cornyn to include NADBank in USMCA. The Laredo Democrat applauded the singing of the trade pact, which he calls NAFTA 2.0. He pointed out the trade agreement is projected to raise GDP by nearly $70 billion and create upwards of 200,000 American jobs.

“Over the past year, I have been working with both Democrats and Republicans to create a trade agreement that benefits our workers, businesses, consumers, and the economy as a whole. Today is an historic day because we have officially signed and officially ratified the United States- Mexico- Canada Agreement,” Cuellar said.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar

“This is an historic victory for the 28th District, for the state of Texas, and for our country as a whole. Trade with Mexico and Canada supports nearly million jobs in Texas.  Last year the state exported more than $137 billion worth of goods to Mexico and Canada, accounting for more than 40 percent of Texas exports. This historic trade agreement will position more Texans to compete—and win—in today’s economy.”

Cuellar said that among the many key provisions included in the agreement, is commitment to provide $250 million for NADBank as well as $300 million to fund Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grants under the Border Water Infrastructure Program.

“These investments will enhance our ability to fund environmental infrastructure projects along the U.S.-Mexico border,” Cuellar said. “This historic trade agreement is a great deal for the American worker, the U.S. economy, and North America as a whole.”

Cuellar said a lot of people deserved thanks for shepherding USMCA through months of tri-national negotiations. He said he would like to thank Speaker Pelosi, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, and their staff for their hard work on this trade agreement.

“I also want to thank Mexico’s Foreign Secretary Marcelo Luis Ebrard, Deputy Foreign Minister Jesus Seade, Ambassador Martha Bárcena, Senator Ricardo Monreal, and House Majority Leader Mario Delgado as well as Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland for working with us to create an agreement that will be beneficial for all three countries,” Cuellar said.

“Furthermore, I would like to thank many business groups that put in the hours of advocacy to make this deal possible, including the Texas Farm Bureau and the Business Coordination Council of Mexico.”

Cruz’s perspective 

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, also welcomed President Trump’s signing of USMCA.

“As a fierce competitor on the international stage, no state in the union has more invested in trade with our neighbors than Texas. This trade agreement puts American jobs first, including the 2.2 million jobs in Texas directly dependent on international trade,” Cruz said.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz

“By increasing access to the Canadian market for American wheat, dairy, poultry, and egg products and maintaining tariff-free access for agricultural products, the USMCA is a win for Texas farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, and small businesses.”

Cruz said that while he is proud to have voted to pass USMCA, he is disappointed the deal includes special protections for Big Tech. He cited Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

“As we advance more policies that grow our economy, I will also continue working with President Trump, the administration, and my colleagues in the Senate to ensure our trade agreements benefit Texas farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, and small businesses.”

Cruz said he led a statewide tour with the Texas Farm Bureau, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Texas Association of Business to boost passage of USMCA. He said he met with local workers, families, and small business owners in El Paso, Goliad, Dallas, Corsicana, Waco, Temple, Brenham, Houston, Port Arthur, Beaumont, Texarkana, Wichita Falls, Midland-Odessa, and San Antonio.

NadBank perspective

NADBank is a financial institution established and capitalized in equal parts by the United States and Mexico for the purpose of financing environmental infrastructure projects along their common border.

Dr. Calixto Mateos-Hanel

Dr. Calixto Mateos-Hanel, NADBank’s managing director, said that among the funding for environmental programs found in USMCA are $300 million for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Border Water Infrastructure Program, as well as provides a $215 million paid-in capital increase for NADBank.

“The accomplishments of the Bank in partnership with our many border stakeholders is being validated through the inclusion of the capital increase in USMCA. To date, more than 17 million U.S. and Mexican border residents have been positively impacted by the Bank’s financing of environmental infrastructure,” Calixto Mateos-Hanel said.