By Governor Brad Little
 
Our neighbors to the north and south play an integral part in Idaho’s economy.
 
A trade agreement being considered for approval by Congress would enable Idaho businesses to continue competing in a global market and enhance their customer base in North America.
 
Congress must ratify President Trump’s United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) for the benefit of Idaho businesses and rural communities across the state.
 
Canada and Mexico combined make up more than 25 percent of Idaho’s total exports and nearly 50 percent of Idaho’s total food and agriculture exports. More than 1,700 companies in Idaho export goods and services to more than 150 countries around the globe, and the two most accessible and important markets are right next door.
 
Canada alone, as Idaho’s number one export market, purchased $926 million worth of goods ranging from fertilizer and locomotives to precious metals and cattle. Mexico was Idaho’s fifth largest market with sales topping $230 million led by malt, milk powder, frozen potatoes, cheese and electronic integrated circuits. Clearly, the products exported to these two markets reflect a vast range of sectors and businesses from every corner of the state.
 
The USMCA is important to Idaho because it preserves and enhances critical gains made in previous trade agreements for Idaho products’ market access. It would also create additional market access in Canada for Idaho dairy products. It would eliminate the Class 7 milk pricing system that created tremendous disadvantages to dairy processors in global markets. It also makes progress in the areas of labor, intellectual property, and digital trade.
 
In addition, the federal government needs to find a solution to tariffs that have caused significant increases in the price of steel and aluminum. The impact is felt by Idaho companies and has been detrimental to their bottom line. The retaliatory tariffs placed on a broad swath of U.S. and Idaho exports to both Canada and Mexico also have created significant headwinds for our exports. While tariffs may have a place in dealing with China, I urge the Trump Administration to consider an exemption for Canada and Mexico.
 
The longer these tariffs remain in place the more difficult it will be for our companies to re-establish business with lost customers. 
 
Last week I wrote to all four members of Idaho’s congressional delegation to express my strong support of the USMCA, encouraging them to vote for the agreement and find a solution on tariffs. We need to do all we can to ensure Idaho’s long-term economic prosperity.