New trade alliance is must for city, nation

Published 7:13 pm Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Mayor George Flaggs Jr.

As the mayor of Vicksburg, a historic and booming Mississippi city, I am proud to give my support to the proposed U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA).

Vicksburg is a bustling city on the bluffs of the Mississippi River with access to one of the nation’s busiest interstates and best rail lines.

Along with the thousands of river barges passing our front door on a weekly basis, Vicksburg — and all of Mississippi — will continue to economically prosper through agriculture, employment and manufacturing, all of which boost our tax bases and make our city and state even more attractive to potential residents, industries and manufacturers.

Vicksburg’s immediate outlying areas, as well as the majority of the State of Mississippi, enjoy a strong agricultural base. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that in 2016, the latest data available, Mississippi shipped $1.8 billion in domestic agricultural exports abroad. That said, agricultural products best serve all of the nation when they easily can be moved — without being encumbered — to Mexico and Canada, the other nations in our great continent.

In 2017, Mississippi exported $11 billion of made-in-America goods to the world, supporting an estimated 51,000 jobs and accounting for 9.8 percent of the state’s gross domestic product.  For the guarantee of movement of agricultural products, parts needed for our booming automobile-manufacturing industry, and all other industrial products, we must see the adoption of the USMCA.

This trade pact, a modernized version of the North American Free Trade Agreement signed and adopted many years ago, is necessary for Vicksburg and Mississippi to keep workers at their posts and employ more. It is vital not only for growth but, just as importantly, for sustainability.

Along with creating incentives for production, the pact will require protection for high-paying jobs. It will ensure that 40 to 45 percent of auto content be made by workers being paid at least $16 per hour. It also will add provisions to protect duty-free treatment for originating goods, keep the prohibition of export duties, taxes and other charges of specific processing fees, and it will add transparency in import licensing and export licensing procedures.

Another aspect of the USMCA — one of the most important to cities the size of Vicksburg — is the cooperation to increase trade and investment opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). This is vital to the continued growth of Vicksburg and cities its size across the state and the nation. Not only do these businesses get the support they need to prosper and compete successfully in highly competitive markets, they will be promised backing for SMEs that often are owned by under-represented groups — women, indigenous peoples, youth and minorities.

Not to be overlooked for the SMEs is the opportunity for idea-sharing and protection of the intellectual properties, both intensely intertwined in the start-up and operations of small and medium-sized enterprises.

The USMCA is a must for Vicksburg; it is a must for Mississippi; and, most importantly, it is a must for future prosperity of our great nation.

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. is mayor of Vicksburg. You can reach him at mayorflaggs@vicksburg.org.