Border-region officials, trucking associations praise passage of USMCA

A wide range of officials on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border as well as trucking associations on Thursday praised the new trade deal among the United States, Mexico and Canada, after the U.S. Senate passed the deal, sending it to President Donald Trump for his signature.

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) passed the Senate on an 89-10 vote. It is an updated version of the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“The combination of this new trade deal and the reduction of wait times at the U.S.-Mexico border will help solidify our region’s role as the gateway of trade for the Americas and help us attract more talent, capital, and jobs,” Jon Barela, CEO of the El Paso, Texas-based Borderplex Alliance, wrote in an email.

Barela added, “with this agreement in place, we will now shift efforts to advocating for increased funding and staffing at our ports of entry to help reduce the long wait times and unpredictability at ports.”

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) also applauded the USMCA’s approval.

“Trade is central to the trucking industry — 76% of all surface freight between the U.S. and our nearest neighbors moves by truck,” ATA President and CEO Chris Spear said in a release. “This agreement will boost both U.S. exports and gross domestic product, meaning more truck movements and delivering measurable returns for our industry.”

The USMCA caps the number of Mexican-domiciled carriers that can receive U.S. operating authority and would continue the prohibition on Mexican-based carriers hauling freight between two points within the U.S.

Mexican carriers that already have authority under NAFTA to operate in the U.S. — 41 carriers currently participate in the cross-border trucking program — would continue to be allowed to operate in the United States.

The USMCA also includes changes on the manufacture and import of automobiles and new policies on labor and environmental standards, intellectual property protections, and some digital trade provisions.

Mexican President Manuel Obrador said the USMCA will benefit all three nations.

“With this an important stage in the U.S. is over and it goes to Parliament in Canada, but the forecasts are very good, because this treaty will mean more confidence in Mexico to install more companies, with good salaries and welfare for the country and the people,” Obrador tweeted.

However, one Texas lawmaker said the USMCA should have included security provisions to make Mexico’s highways safer for passenger and commercial traffic.

“For months now, I have implored the governments of the U.S. and Mexico to secure trade and tourism routes — including Highway 40D, from Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, all the way to the international bridges on the U.S.-Mexico border,” U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, wrote in an op-ed for the McAllen Monitor.

Two recent incidents in which U.S. citizens were killed while traveling in Mexico near the border has highlighted the need for more security, Gonzalez wrote.

“I must make it known that if Mexico, with or without the support of the U.S., fails to act on securing this highway and the Mexican side of our ports of entry, it is only a matter of time before another person is killed — Mexican or U.S. citizen — due to this senseless violence that seems to now be the norm,” Gonzalez said.