Monday morning saw the return of Vice President Mike Pence to Jacksonville.
Pence, appearing under the auspices of America First Policies, was in Duval for the event “USMCA: A Better Deal for American Workers.”
The Jacksonville stop is the first on a 26 city tour of battleground states.
Time is of the essence here: the USCMA, a NAFTA replacement, needs to be ratified this spring, or else terms reset to the time before the 1990s trade accord.
VP Pence depicted the bill as continuing the economic momentum of the Trump administration, including an increase in manufacturing jobs.
“Since Election Day 2016, businesses across this country have created 500,000 manufacturing jobs,” Pence said.
Pence added that the first two years have been a “good start,” but the trade deal to “level the playing field for American workers” is key.
Speakers preceding Pence made the point about an “unlevel playing field” that proponents of the trade deal expect to equalize.
U.S. Sen. Rick Scott lauded the Trump administration’s commitment to Florida.
America First Policies chairwoman Linda McMahon lauded the successes of the Trump economy.
“Manufacturing is back. America is back,” the former Cabinet Secretary said.
U.S. Rep. John Rutherford noted that it was time to ratify the new deal.
“NAFTA is 24 years old,” the third-term Jacksonville Republican said, and the goal is a “fair trade footing.”
“This USCMA is going to strengthen our economic ties,” Rutherford said, noting that it would open up North American markets to our agricultural products and allow for enforcement of intellectual property rights.
U.S. Rep. Mike Waltz likened the USMCA to the “Monroe Doctrine,” allowing a hemispheric response to “economic warfare” from China, a “payday lender” to developing countries.
“They’ve done it with half the nations in Central and South America … deeds to ports,” Waltz said. “They’re doing it in our backyard.”
Waltz noted that the Chinese and Russians are working out land deals, including for satellite placements to surveil U.S. movements.
“We’ve been in a trade war for 20 years with China,” Rutherford said. “This President is fighting back.”
Other locals were in attendance.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry noted that the scheduling of Jacksonville signified the importance of the region.
Florida’s leading elected Democrat offered a counter to the laudatory rhetoric.
“This supposed ‘better deal’ is a bad deal for Florida farmers and could put farms out of business. Smoke and mirrors from the White House won’t help our proud but struggling farmers,” said Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.
“In a state that depends on agriculture, we can’t afford a trade agreement that allows Mexico to continue dumping artificially low-priced seasonal crops into our country. Mexico’s unfair trade practices and lower safety standards and labor costs are putting Florida’s seasonal crop growers at risk,” Fried added.
“That’s why I’ve encouraged Florida’s congressional delegation to not support the USMCA until our seasonal crop growers get the protections they deserve. If the Trump administration wants to put America first, they should put Florida’s farmers first, and help them compete on a level playing field. Until that happens, this new deal isn’t anything new – just a worsening of 25 years of NAFTA’s failures,” Fried concluded.
Pence has been deployed to Jacksonville both as a candidate and an officeholder over the years.
In 2016, Pence addressed a crowd at First Baptist Church, on a day when the pews were not at full capacity.
Pence returned in 2017 to push policy, calling for repeal and replace of “the Obamacare nightmare.”
Pence was in town ahead of the 2018 election for Gov. Ron DeSantis.
More recently, Pence was in Jacksonville for a fundraiser.
The March 28 event featured a number of high-profile Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and RNC Co-Chair Tommy Hicks Jr. Trump Victory finance chairman Todd Ricketts was also listed on the invite.