We were surprised that President Donald Trump did not focus more on infrastructure during last week’s State of the Union address, particularly since he chose to include some pointed language to describe the North American Free Trade Agreement. While we understand and appreciate his desire to update trade policy between the United States and its neighbors to the north and south — a goal the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement is intended to address — we hope the president understands that NAFTA has been good for trucking, and USMCA must be as well. We also think the new agreement’s chances for success will be improved if the bridges and highways that carry cargo across those borders receive needed attention.
Trade and infrastructure go hand in hand, but the two subjects should receive equal attention. To be fair, Trump called improving the nation’s infrastructure a “necessity,” and some of his comments on trade were focused more on China than USMCA, but we still had higher hopes that infrastructure would be a major focal point — especially since it is that rare issue on Capitol Hill that could garner bipartisan support.
How close are we to a deal on infrastructure funding? This week's Infrastructure Meter pegs it at 15%, up slightly from last week's 10%. See the reason for the slight uptick in optimism in this week's Capitol Agenda.
What better place to focus on a topic about which so many lawmakers agree than during a speech in front of those lawmakers?
Trump did ask that audience to get behind USMCA, and had some strong words for NAFTA. He called the old agreement a “catastrophe” and a “historic trade blunder,” and said he has met people from Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Hampshire and elsewhere whose “dreams were shattered” by the signing of NAFTA.
Trump said, “For years, politicians promised them they would renegotiate for a better deal, but no one ever tried, until now.” He promised that USMCA will bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States, expand American agriculture, protect intellectual property and ensure that more automobiles are stamped with the words, “Made in the USA.”
Lofty goals, and admirable ones. We commend the president for striving on behalf of American workers and American goods. We are hopeful that he realizes how important good roads and bridges are to the future success of both, and works with lawmakers to arrive at a sustainable, comprehensive package that brings needed repairs to the nation’s infrastructure. We also hope he realizes that NAFTA has been very good for trucking, and that for USMCA to be a success, it must be as well.