President Trump campaigned on cutting taxes, streamlining regulations, and improving infrastructure. He also vowed to renegotiate our trade agreements, calling the North American Free Trade Agreement “the worst deal ever made.”
The cost of regulations is a key American competitiveness issue. It’s a major reason our companies relocate to other countries and our manufacturers and farmers have difficulties competing internationally.
The U.S. Office of Management and Budget pegged the costs of new regulations passed since 1980 at $250 billion a year. The Competitive Enterprise Institute estimated annual regulatory compliance and economic impact costs are $1.8 trillion--roughly equal to all of the personal and corporate income tax collections.
Concern over the impacts of excessive regulations isn’t new. In the 1980s, Sen. George McGovern, 1972 Democrat presidential nominee, bought the Stratford Inn, in Connecticut, and learned how difficult it was to operate a small business and comply with government regulations.
“I also wish that during the years I was in public office, I had had this firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day” McGovern wrote in a Wall Street Journal editorial. “That knowledge would have made me a better U.S. senator and a more understanding presidential contender.”
Those difficulties also frustrate many involved in international trade. Farmers, food processors, and factory owners find their compliance costs rising and now face retaliatory trade tariffs on products they export to countries such as China.
Hopefully, tariff rhetoric won’t escalate and new approaches can make their way into trade agreement and regulation streamlining negotiations.
Sens. Ted Cruz, of Texas; Steve Daines, of Montana; and Cory Gardner, of Colorado, wrote President Trump asking him to add language to NAFTA aimed at streamlining permitting, bolstering infrastructure and putting key regulatory reforms into the agreement.
They want a competitiveness chapter included in NAFTA that applies only to the U.S. Neither Mexico nor Canada would have to agree.
The letter also proposes Congressional approval for any regulation costing more than $100 million.
Under the Cruz-Daines-Gardner approach, any final trade agreement would be ratified by the Senate requiring only 50 votes. It escapes a deadly filibuster.
Tossing NAFTA and adding tariffs hurts our farmers, food processors, and manufacturers, especially in our state--the nation’s third largest exporter. In 2017, Washington exports were $77 billion, of which $8 billion went to Canada under NAFTA.
In Mexico, the U.S is the dominant dairy supplier, capturing close to 75 percent of that market. Dairy exports to Mexico support 30,000 American jobs. Washington dairies contribute nearly $4 billion a year to the state’s economy and provide 18,000 jobs.
Streamlining regulations and negotiating trade agreements is tedious, necessary work. Cruz-Daines-Gardner suggest a different approach. Hopefully, the President and the senators’ colleagues will give it serious consideration.
Don Brunell is a business analyst, writer, columnist, and the retired president of the Association of Washington Business. He can be contacted at TheBrunells@msn.com.
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