U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids said congressional negotiations on a revised trade agreement among the United States, Mexico and Canada ought to be sustained until House Republican and Democratic lawmakers find consensus on labor and environmental provisions.
"It's so important that we get to a place where we can get a bipartisan vote to get it through," the Kansas Democrat said Friday. "It matters a great deal to have a trade agreement in place. For the ag community, especially, it makes a huge difference."
Davids, who represents a largely non-agriculture suburban Kansas City district, declined to say whether she would vote for a version of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, also known as USMCA, endorsed by President Donald Trump and many Republicans.
She urged negotiators to include stronger environmental and labor standards in the agreement. House Democrats also have raised questions about how the replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement would be effectively enforced.
The measure could come to a vote in the U.S. House before end of the year. Mexico has approved USMCA in its current form, but it has yet to be ratified by Canada and the United States.
On Thursday, Gov. Laura Kelly sent a letter to Kansas’ congressional delegation to express support for passage of the USMCA.
"Too much is at stake for Kansas if Congress fails to act on USMCA, especially as our farmers and ranchers struggle to rebuild after an historic year of natural disasters," Kelly said.
"We cannot prosper without access to international markets," the Democratic governor said. "We need Congress to act. Ratifying USMCA, as well as improving relations with our trading partners around the globe, will benefit our agriculture sector and the economy as a whole."
U.S. Rep. Steve Watkins, the 2nd District Republican assigned by House GOP leadership to lobby his freshman peers in support of the agreement, said 27 of the 30 people within that group support the existing text of the USMCA.
"That's good progress. That's showing resounding support," said Watkins, who believes the deal would pass the U.S. House if Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., allowed it to come to a vote.
U.S. Reps. Roger Marshall and Ron Estes, both Kansas Republicans, also have expressed support for USMCA, in part, because of benefits to agriculture producers.
In 2017, net farm income in Kansas was 50 percent below the 10-year average. The state typically reported about $10 billion in agriculture exports annually, with Canada and Mexico the state's two biggest trading partners.
Kansas Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers, a Democrat, said Kansas exports in North America quadrupled from 1993 to 2016 following implementation of NAFTA, which was targeted for overhaul by President Donald Trump. Rogers, who leads the administration's Office of Rural Prosperity, said economic struggle in rural Kansas communities reinforced the need for solid trade agreements.
"Our producers in Kansas need modern trade agreements that expand the access to markets, and in turn boost their local economies," Rogers said.