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Our nation’s economy stands today at a crucial moment. As countries trade goods and services at rates never seen before, the global economy continues to become more intertwined than ever. It is easy to look at this change and turn inward, but that will only set us up for more struggles down the line.

In America, we make the best goods in the world, but in too many countries tariffs and regulations put our goods at a disadvantage. That is why it is so crucial we continue to support fair and free trade, working to better our trade agreements like NAFTA to help American businesses and families.

Ours is the eighth largest agriculture congressional district in the country, containing some of the most fertile farmland in the entire world. As great as the products we grow may be, our farmers and agriculture industry must have markets to sell their goods. That’s where free trade agreements like NAFTA come in, removing barriers that allow our corn and soybeans to be sold all over the world at competitive prices.

Since the implementation of NAFTA, American agriculture exports have more than quadrupled from $8.9 billion to $ 38 billion dollars annually. This is significant, and is the reason why the agriculture sector now supports more than 21 million jobs here at home.

Other sectors of our district’s economy are just as affected by trade, especially manufacturing. Since NAFTA’s implementation, we have seen tariffs on American goods come down and more markets open up. That is why our trade agreement partners receive half of all exports of American manufactured goods. The benefits of this are passed on to hard working families, with the 38 million jobs linked to trade paying 15 to 20 percent more.

While NAFTA and free trade have allowed for this kind of prosperity and growth, we must also be mindful of the problems that can arise. For example, recent Canadian policies creating quotas and tariffs for the importing of American poultry and dairy have threatened those industries here at home.

Now is the time to take a fresh look at our trade agreements, not with an eye toward withdrawing from the global economy, but to make our trade fairer and better. The bottom line is that we need customers from around the world to buy and consume our products.

President Trump and his trade team are in the process of renegotiating the NAFTA deal, and it is my hope that they keep in mind the businesses and families of Central Illinois.

As a new member on the House Ways & Means Committee, I look forward to having a strong voice on the issue of trade and on any new deals or decisions that will be made. The people of Central and west-central Illinois know that free trade is a win-win, and it is vital that we make these agreements fairer to stay at the forefront of the world economy.

LaHood represents the 18th Congressional District in Central Illinois.


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