“We’re going to get this done,” Donohue told reporters, referring to USMCA supporters’ efforts to advance the pact through Congress.
During the chamber’s annual State of American Business address, Donohue gave a broad endorsement of free trade, noting that 49 of 50 businesses that sell goods overseas are small businesses.
“The bottom line is this is one of the best business, geopolitical, economic, national security agreements put together with any countries that we deal with,” he said during a press conference following the address. “And by the way, remember [Canada and Mexico are] our two largest export partners. If we can’t sell that, we better find another job.”
Later during the press conference, Donohue said sometime after USMCA is activated, he believes the U.S. will rejoin TPP.
Since President Donald Trump withdrew from TPP in January 2017, the remaining 11 members of the agreement have reduced tariffs on agriculture and several areas to rates lower than the U.S., and the pact puts members on a strategic footing to deal with the economic powerhouse of China, Donohue added.
The TPP-11 entered into force Dec. 30.
“I do believe more in multilateral trade agreements than may be the case with the [Trump] administration, and I do believe that’s a constructive debate and we’re going to end up in a good place,” Donohue said. “Stay tuned.”
But in the nearer term, Donohue cautioned against any potential U.S. withdrawal from NAFTA with Congress expected to soon consider implementing legislation for USMCA.
But Donohue noted that 14 million American jobs depend on NAFTA, and that withdrawing from the existing deal would start a six-month expiration clock that would force Congress to act in some way.
Some analysts believe Trump doesn’t have the authority to unilaterally withdraw from NAFTA, and that after Trump would notify Canada and Mexico of withdrawal, Congress would have to affirmatively effectuate changes to U.S. law to bring U.S. tariffs back up to pre-NAFTA levels.
But that matter isn’t totally settled, as the NAFTA text states that any member government can pull out of the deal after providing notice to the other parties.
Donohue also pushed for congressional efforts to pass broad infrastructure legislation this year.
The Chamber will offer cash prizes totaling $25,000 for those who can come up with the “best, most viable ideas for a long-term sustainable funding source for infrastructure,” according to Donohue.
Legislation could address ports, airports, inland waterways and several other infrastructure areas, and several administration officials will likely push for such a bill this year, as U.S. infrastructure remains in need of updates, Donohue said.