January 2, 2020 4:30 PM, EST

ATA’s Chris Spear Praises USMCA Movement, Urges Final Passage in Congress

Chris SpearChris Spear by Joe Terry/Transport Topics

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Congressional movement on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement was a good year-end victory for the trucking and freight industry that set the stage for growth in 2020, according to American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear.

“There’s no question this agreement needed to be updated, certainly from the environmental and labor provisions. They were pretty antiquated,” Spear said Dec. 18 during an appearance on SiriusXM’s Road Dog Trucking News, discussing the trade agreement on which federal lawmakers and the Trump administration came to terms late last year.

On Dec. 19, the House of Representatives passed USMCA on a 385-41 vote before adjourning for its holiday recess. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to call the measure for a vote this year.

Spear said the agreement will bring stability to much of the trucking and freight industry because it will be working with updated guidelines that make sense for a 21st-century economy.

“The agreement is expected to generate 0.3% to 1% in gross domestic product. That’s going to be a significant windfall for trucking. We’re looking at roughly 170,000 to 175,000 new jobs for our industry through this new agreement,” he said.

Spear also said he sees progress in 2020 with regard to trade between the U.S. and China. Washington and Beijing have an agreement that will stop the imposition of new tariffs from both nations and begin to roll back some already in place.

“The tariffs have been directly impactful in our industry, particularly in aluminum and steel,” he said. “We are seeing an impact in agriculture, where they are really posing a drag.”

Spear added, “Having good trade policies is important, but there is a break point. You can only do tariffs for so long before our industry cannot endure anymore, and we’re getting really close to that now.”

With regard to infrastructure funding, Spear praised states that have approved funding initiatives to repair their highways and roads. However, he noted that they’re taking these actions but Congress and the White House have not reached an agreement on an infrastructure bill.

“For our industry, we are interstate commerce,” he said. “You can’t have a patchwork of states trying to do their own thing. We are for — federally — an increase in the fuel tax, a nickel a year, for four years. That’s 20 cents total, raising $340 billion in new revenue. That’s new revenue that immediately goes right into the Highway Trust Fund, which is set to go broke next year. We’re shoring it up. It’s immediate. It’s conservative. It’s less than a penny on a dollar to administer, and it doesn’t add a dime to the deficit.”

Spear added that infrastructure is an issue that should transcend politics.

“You talk about purple, red, blue. I could care less what color they are, because roads and bridges aren’t political,” he said. “We all drive on them.”

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