Vern Buchanan bullish on NAFTA replacement deal, hopeful for bipartisan Florida support
President Donald J. Trump meets with members of the House Republican USMCA working group, including Florida Rep. Vern Buchanan, to discuss passing the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement Tuesday, March 26, 2019, in the Cabinet Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)

Vern Buchanan at White House (1)
Sarasota Republican hopeful for bipartisan support in Florida.

Trade policy impacts Florida’s economy in more ways than many realize, according to U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan.

That’s a good reason for Florida’s Congressional delegation to rally behind the new North American trade agreement, the Sarasota Republican suggested.

“When you think about it, about one of five jobs in Florida are trade-related,” he said. “It’s over 2 million jobs. So trade is a big part of who we are.”

It’s been important to Buchanan that as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement comes together, it benefits the Sunshine State.

Buchanan, the top Republican on the House Trade Subcommittee, attended a White House meeting this week with President Donald Trump and other Republican whips to map a plan and get the deal through Congress.

Called the new NAFTA in many quarters, Buchanan said the USMCA benefits U.S. interests more than the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement. In Buchanan’s own Manatee County-centered district, he said the agriculture industry lost half its production over NAFTA’s lifetime.

“This agreement goes a long way toward leveling the playing field,” Buchanan said.

The congressman also introduced legislation with Sen. Marco Rubio specifically combating unfair trade practices earlier this year. He’s building a list of co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle.

Not all assessments seem rosy. Democratic Ways and Means chairman Richard Neal told Politico the USMCA faces a tough road. “It’s going to be very hard to do this,” he said.

But Buchanan feels more optimistic. With so many Democrats on border states and with areas like Florida in need of a better deal than NAFTA, Buchanan sees bipartisan agreement in the future.

“We have $1.3 trillion in economic activity and 14 million jobs that are at stake in the U.S. alone,” he said.

A big chunk of those will be in Florida, which boasts 15 ports. In cities like Jacksonville, international trade has propelled forward as new business comes in from Europe and Asia.

“I’m very bullish about where we are at with how far trade has come in the last 10, 15 years or so,” he said.

“But more importantly, we’ll see more growth in the future. And a lot of what drives that is what’s happening with our growth in Florida and just in the South as well.”

He figures come August, the USMCA will pass the House with bipartisan support.

But if it doesn’t, there may be no deal at all.

Trump completed sometimes contentious negotiation with Canada and Mexico and signed the deal in a joint ceremony with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Enrique Pena Nieto last November.

If Congress doesn’t approve the deal, Buchanan said the U.S. may move forward with no trade agreement in place, abandoning NAFTA and shelving the USMCA.

“I think we’re better off with the new and improved deal,” Buchanan said. That will help improve and diversify the economy.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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