Three hundred and forty-two days have passed since President Trump signed the successor to NAFTA. Members of Congress have had almost a year to read, review, and negotiate the ins and outs of the agreement, which includes changes to the rules of origin for automotive trade, intellectual property rights protections, labor enforcements, and digital and agricultural trade. 

The draft North American Free Trade Agreement, initialed in San Antonio by the United States, Canada, and Mexico 27 years ago, was the genesis of a treaty that has played a central role in economic growth for the city and across the country.

In 2018, our state’s largest market was Mexico. Texas exported $109.7 billion in goods to Mexico, representing 35 percent of the state’s total goods exports. Large and small businesses across the country have leveraged NAFTA to remain competitive in an ever-increasing global market. We have sought to enhance freer trade between our three nations, and we can continue to build on this prosperity by ratifying the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). 

Recently, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador sent a letter to Democrats in Congress saying he has agreed to budget enough funding to enact the labor reforms in the agreement, taking a historic step to pass the USMCA. The deal, with President López Obrador’s letter, is now closer than ever to coming to a vote.

NAFTA eliminated harmful tariffs and allowed our economy to flourish. It strengthened the bond between our three nations, culturally and economically. We’ve since seen annual trade between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico reach $1.3 trillion and support 14 million American jobs.

Agricultural trade has benefited farmers and ranchers in all three countries, totaling $143 billion in 2018. This greater access to the global market provides an essential revenue stream for our agricultural producers, who often rely on shoestring budgets. By passing the USMCA, we can assure our trade workers and agricultural producers not only in Texas, but in all three countries, that we are committed to creating a free and open market where businesses of all sizes have access to prosperity.

The new agreement keeps many of the same provisions that benefited Texas, especially my district, for over 20 years. Changes dictate that 75 percent of automobile parts must originate in the U.S. and Mexico, an increase from NAFTA’s 62.5 percent standard. Negotiators in the U.S. also worked to ensure 40 percent of new cars must come from workers who earn $16 an hour or more. These changes ensure that auto workers in both countries can have safe and stable jobs that support their families.

In Congress, I have been working with both Democrats and Republicans to ensure that we create a deal for farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, and consumers across the country. 

It is my hope that this new agreement is signed into law this year, so that we can continue to capitalize on the economic benefits NAFTA has facilitated for more than two decades.

Our economy is only as strong as the trading networks it so heavily relies on. The USMCA is our best option to move this city, this country, and this continent toward a modern and mutually beneficial economic relationship.

Congressman Henry Cuellar currently represents the 28th District of Texas and sits on the U.S. House Appropriations Committee and Subcommittees on Homeland Security, Defense, and Agriculture. He has previously...