WASHINGTON — Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said Tuesday there’s excitement back home about the new North American trade agreement President Donald Trump announced this week.
“This is a good deal for farmers and ranchers,” Ernst told The World-Herald. “It’s leveling the playing field for our wheat farmers, for gaining access for dairy, poultry, eggs.”
Ernst was in the Rose Garden on Monday for the president’s announcement of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, that would take the place of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Trump criticized NAFTA heavily on the campaign trail and ran in large part on getting better trade deals with America’s neighbors.
Gaining greater access to Canada’s market for U.S. dairy products is a particularly big deal, Ernst said, but it also carries a lot of benefits for U.S. autoworkers, as their Mexican counterparts will have to be paid more under the agreement.
“It helps level the industry out, allows us to compete fairly with Mexican workers,” Ernst said.
Some commentators have questioned whether the new deal is enough of an improvement over the old to justify the conflict and disrupted markets that the negotiations produced.
Ernst said the new deal has “absolutely” been worth it, noting that NAFTA was 25 years old.
“Think about the way industry has changed over that quarter of a century,” she said. “It certainly needed to be modernized.”
Ernst said she expects Congress to approve the new trade agreement.
“We have a lot of benefit to American workers, to farmers, to ranchers. I think it’s a really good deal,” Ernst said. “I’ll qualify that — I haven’t seen the text of the deal yet, but in the overview that I’ve received it sounds like we are going to do quite well.”