Opinion Pieces

Babin: Texans deserve fair trade and border security

As originally published by the Houston Chronicle on July 20, 2019.

The relationship between the United States and Mexico, along with the future of trade, immigration and border security policy between the two nations, is top of mind for many Americans. Those things matter even more to Texans: We are both the state handling the most trade and the custodian of the longest section of the U.S. border with Mexico.

On immigration, we are already seeing marked improvement as a result of the president’s hardball negotiating tactics. Per the agreement reached in June to avoid sweeping new import tariffs, Mexico has begun to deploy thousands of soldiers to both its northern and southern borders to address the influx of Central American migrants into their country and ours, as well as making key changes to their asylum and detainment process.

Action by Congress on similar revised laws and procedures is the only way we will truly resolve the crisis unfolding at our southern border. To date those much-needed reforms have unfortunately been ignored by the new Democratic majority in the House.

On trade, the president’s vision and leadership has us on the brink of another win that will be especially great for Texas. Key steps have already been taken and achieved, first through the signatures of the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) by the leaders of each country, and then with ratification of the agreement by the Mexican Senate last month. This new agreement replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement (or NAFTA, which went into effect in 1994) with a comprehensive, modern overhaul of this trilateral partnership.

The Greater Houston area is the No. 1 region for American exports, employing more than 3 million people and generating more than $800 billion in economic activity. The USMCA reforms and strengthens nearly every component of this export process, from ensuring that workers can do their job safely to certifying that buyers and sellers are getting the best deals possible. This trade agreement also includes the most comprehensive set of environmental protections seen in any American trade deal — improving air quality, enforcing marine protections and cooperation, and implementing sustainable practices in a fair and equitable way among the three nations.

The USMCA impacts nearly every American industry, with benefits for groups as divergent as bankers from downtown Houston to rice farmers in rural Chambers County. It affects port workers on the coast, union workers in our factories, and even a family of four eating dinner at home. All we need is an up or down vote in Congress — which almost all agree would deliver the support needed to get the USMCA into law and working to help American businesses and families — but that vote can’t happen unless Speaker Pelosi decides to do so.

China would love nothing more than to continue to see the Democrats hold up the process of stabilizing our trade relationship with Mexico and Canada.

Up to this point I have purposely avoided saying the two words that elicit perhaps the strongest feelings in America we have seen in generations: President Trump. I have done so not because of any lack of support for him, but to make the point that among Democrats, including it seems many of my Houston-area colleagues, any idea or proposal put forth or supported by President Trump cannot be allowed to succeed.

I ask my colleagues to re-read the words in this op-ed and ask themselves if they would be resisting commonsense fixes to our broken immigration laws and blocking a trade deal that will help the people of our state if the president were Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, or even “John Doe” pushing it instead of Donald J. Trump. If the answer to that question is no, then the reason for this current resistance is politics — something we will have plenty of time to figure out between now and next November’s election.

Ultimately it is thanks to President Trump and his administration that we have this opportunity to move forward with the strongest trade deal we have ever had with these two countries. It is time that we vote to pass the USMCA.