STEVENS POINT - Wisconsin farmers hurt by President Trump's trade wars could see some relief soon.
Mexico's representative to the Badger State believes the vicious cycle of tariffs and retaliation will end if Congress passes the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), replacing NAFTA in the process.
Trade with Mexico supports more than 97,000 jobs in Wisconsin. What's more, Mexico imports $3.4 billion worth of goods from America's Dairyland as one of the state's top export destinations, second only to Canada.
Under USMCA, Julian Adem, the Mexican Consul General to Milwaukee says exports from Wisconsin to Mexico are expected to increase.
"The window of opportunity is September, maybe October," said Julian Adem.
Adem imparted that message of urgency to Wisconsin farmers and manufacturers Tuesday in talks touting the expected benefits of USMCA following Mexico's ratification of the trade deal on June 19. Central Wisconsin economic development group Centergy hosted the presentation at Mid-State Technical College in Stevens Point.
"The economic success of North America depends on a strong regional trade partnership," said Adem.
During his rermarks, Adem dedicated the most time to USMCA provisions that would raise wages for 40% to 45% of automobile workers to $16. American car makers would also be required to use 75% domestic parts, up from 62.5% under NAFTA, or face a 2.5% tariff.
"We admit that we're going to a be a trade zone and we're going to work together," said Adem.
Adem acknowledged that the $16 pay increase would not likely affect Mexican workers as the country's low cost of production could not support the economic influx. However, Adem was confident that USMCA's rigorous manufacturing requirements would not encourage car makers to move their factories out of his country.
"The risk exists, but I think after 25 years of developing an experienced workforce in Mexico and all the plants which are fully stocked and have the latest technology, it's still going to be more convenient than setting up shop from scratch in a country where the workers are untrained," said Adem.
On impacts to food production, farmers like Brian Wysocki with central Wisconsin potato and vegetable producer Heartland Farms feel the deal is long overdue.
"It can't happen fast enough. I wish Congress and the legislation would pass it sooner and not keep stalling," said Wyoscki. "I think we could benefit right away if it was enacted."
Farmer's like Doug Rebout with the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association hope the new agreement will quell the president's constant threat of tariffs, like those he almost imposed in May against Mexico over illegal immigration.
"Anytime tariff is [sic] mentioned it affects our prices and what we're getting paid on the farm," said Rebout.
In a series of tweets on June 7, the president announced that the previously announced 5% tariff on all Mexican imports was "indefinitely suspended."
"Mexico, in turn, has agreed to take strong measures to stem the tide of Migration through Mexico, and to our Southern Border," the President tweeted.
"We're hoping once this trade deal gets done, that all the tariffs with Mexico are also done," said Rebout.
Adem is also hopeful the tariff threats will cease under the new trade deal.
"We don't want the tariffs in anyway, this trade is the most important thing for us and we just proved it," said Adem.
He believes new labor laws adopted on May 1 in connection with USMCA that strengthen collective bargaining in Mexico will encourage Democrats in the House to ratify the trade deal even though it would give the president a political win.
"For political reasons, it's not so easy to give the President of the United States what would look like a victory," said Adem. "As the say, a feather in his cap."
Adem added that a recent trade deal with the European Union that restricts the use of common cheese names like "Asiago" and "Parmesan" would not affect American dairy producers.
He went on to say Mexico would be happy to move forward on a deal with the United States, even if Canada was no longer interested following October elections.