NAFTA is out of date. USMCA should be approved quickly.

A truck travels on TX-281 Military Highway, which stretches from the U.S.-Mexico border to the U.S.-Canada border, in Pharr, Texas. Photo by Reynaldo Leal

From agriculture to manufacturing, Texas’ economic success depends on trade with international partners. Mexico and Canada are the state’s largest international trade partners, and the digital trade provisions in USMCA will help give the Texas economy a strong boost as we venture further into the 21st century. 

Texas is the number one state in America for exports and its success in the international economy isn’t confined to just one city or part of the state. Three of the top 10 U.S. metropolitan areas for exports are in Texas, with Houston, Dallas and El Paso all making the list.

The proposed United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) incorporates strong digital provisions that will enhance every sector of the Texas economy. These provisions would break down barriers to trade for businesses of all sizes and set important global precedents for agreements in the future.

Texas already benefits from digital trade, boasting $52 billion in global exports and 184,900 jobs supported by digital services exports. Those jobs and exports go well beyond what we traditionally think of as “internet” jobs, as everything from oil and natural gas pipelines to tractors get connected to the internet.

Texas’ proximity to the border and experience in international commerce positions the state to be a leader in shaping our economic relationship with Mexico and Canada. The proposed agreement would boost economic activity by breaking down barriers to trade, enhance businesses of all sizes by increasing their potential markets for products and allow for more access to products Americans enjoy. Updating our digital trade policies is necessary to achieve this progress.

A modernized trade agreement is long overdue. The provisions of NAFTA do not account for the technological advancements of today’s economy such as online marketplaces, the cloud and data-driven machine learning. Main Street businesses now use the internet to advertise and reach new customers, and businesses of all sizes rely on the cloud to get things done. Yet, the word “internet” doesn’t even appear in NAFTA.

USMCA ensures that data can move safely across borders while recognizing governments’ ability to protect personal information. It establishes robust “intermediary liability” rules, which protect online services from being held liable for online reviews and other user-generated content. 

These online reviews and other user-generated content are critical to the products and services that Americans depend on. Recent survey results show that two-thirds of Americans check online reviews when they buy products online or visit businesses, and that they trust those reviews to be accurate. Consumers rely on this information to make informed choices on purchases, and businesses rely on user reviews to attract new customers in new markets — like Mexico or Canada.

USMCA also incorporates elements of our country’s innovation-oriented copyright framework, which benefits consumers and establishes safe harbors that promote innovation while protecting American intellectual property. It allows small businesses to more easily participate in commerce over borders, which will lead to an increased availability of U.S. goods and services in Mexico, Canada and across the globe. 

Texas is home to hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity supported by the internet, which would continue to flourish with the approval of the digital trade provisions in USMCA. USMCA would strengthen America’s leadership in international trade by implementing guidelines that benefit American companies while allowing for free and fair trade across borders. Updated trade policies will benefit all three countries involved in USMCA, but as the world’s global internet and digital content leader, the United States is in a position to benefit the most. 

Texas lawmakers should work with the rest of Congress to get USMCA ratified and signed into law as soon as possible.

Michael Beckerman

President and CEO, Internet Association