Doing business with Mexico and Canada is an essential part of the fabric of Arizona’s economy.

Two-way trade with those two partners alone poured more than $20 billion into Arizona’s economy in 2018 and supports nearly 230,000 jobs in our state. Our North American neighbors are the top two export destinations for Arizona products and services.

For these partnerships to continue to thrive and for Arizona to compete and lead in the 21st century, we need a smart trade framework at the international level and for all of us to have a forward-thinking approach here at home. It should be our highest priority to make sure that Arizona’s job creators — from large to small — have easy access to growing markets in Mexico and Canada.

On both fronts, we can’t afford to become complacent and should always look for ways to create new paths of opportunity.

New framework works better for everyone

There is no denying that for more than 25 years, the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, has generally worked well for Arizona.

The global economy has changed in that time though, and the agreement doesn’t contemplate many new technologies. And although NAFTA has been good for Arizona, simple changes would benefit even more American workers.

The new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement represents an opportunity to embrace a smarter trade policy that works better for everyone.

There were times when deal seemed in doubt

It took more than a year to negotiate among the White House, Congress and our partners in Canada and Mexico — and there were moments a new deal seemed doubtful.

But many of us kept pushing.  As a former border state mayor, I knew what a big lift it could offer local companies. Several of my colleagues and I urged Speaker Nancy Pelosi to hold a vote on a negotiated USMCA by the end of this year. I took to the House floor to express the urgency of reaching an agreement. And I joined Gov. Doug Ducey to speak directly to Arizonans about the benefits of trade.

The new USMCA is the kind of bipartisan agreement we can all be proud of: A forward-thinking trade policy that supports cross-border commerce and can serve as a baseline for future trade agreements.  And it offers the kind of certainty businesses need.

From multinational companies to Main Street businesses, from tech workers to farm workers, there’s no doubt that the new USMCA is a win for all Arizonans.

USMCA’s improvements compared to NAFTA are meaningful and transformative.

New enforcement mechanisms and rules will better protect workers and ensure our trading partners live up to their labor commitments. Clear, enforceable standards will safeguard our environment. And House Democrats forced the removal of a provision that contributes to high prescription drug costs — a move that reinforced our commitment to make health care more affordable for all Americans.

New trade agreement's boost to Arizona is real

Over the last several months, I’ve met with local companies who will see a real, tangible benefit from USMCA.

The United Dairymen of Arizona receive milk from 90% of dairy farms across the state to export to Mexico. Nearly $200 million in exports and 100 jobs are directly tied to that relationship — their continued existence depends on access to Mexico. The USMCA allows them to expand into Canada, creating new jobs and profits.

Acronis SCS, a Scottsdale-based cybersecurity company, told me it supports the USMCA because it includes for the first time a chapter on e-commerce that will protect the company’s trade secrets.

The Arizona Distillery Company, our state’s second-oldest craft distiller, grew its business by expanding into Mexico. And under new provisions in the USMCA, the distillery will be able to trade its spirits duty-free and add new “Made in America” labeling to its beverages. These same policies will also make a difference for more than 90 Arizona craft breweries.

Our relationship with Mexico had a rocky past 

A smart trade agreement is essential, but it’s not enough. State and local leaders must do their part to build strong ties with our trading partners — and we’ve seen the tough consequences when they don’t.

When I became Phoenix’s mayor in 2012, Arizona’s relationship with Mexico had never been worse. The self-defeating S.B. 1070 was still hurting our economy and costing us jobs. In fact, between 2009 and 2012, Arizona was the only state to see a decline in trade with Mexico. That was unacceptable.

In Phoenix, we made it a priority to turn the tide.

Together with a diverse coalition of business leaders, including the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, we showed up in Mexico as a united front to extend a hand and repair relations. Six years, 18 trade missions and opening two trade offices later, we grew Phoenix’s exports by 20%.

We can’t turn back on our progress — that would be a mistake.

Our path forward is clear: Congress must pass the USMCA — the next step to getting it ratified by all three countries.

The USMCA sets a new standard with trade rules that are enforceable, good for American workers, and consider how business is done in the 21st century.

In what is perhaps the most divisive time in the history of American politics, the USMCA is an example of the way things can and should be done. Working together, putting aside differences, and compromising — for the good of our economy and for the people.