Trade agreements reduce trade barriers, which promotes economic growth and cooperative relationships between nations. Because 95 percent of consumers reside outside U.S. borders, we constantly must be looking for ways to increase access to foreign markets and ensure America’s competitiveness in an increasingly global marketplace. Negotiating trade agreements reduce tariffs between countries and open previously closed markets. Trade with foreign nations represents tremendous opportunities for the American economy.

Canada and Mexico accounted for almost 34 percent of all U.S. exports in 2018 — more than any other countries by far — with $298.7 billion and $265 billion in exports, respectively. Nebraska exports more corn, wheat and dairy products to Mexico than to any other country, and exports more ethanol to Canada than to any other country. Trade is crucial to agriculture, and it is clear we need North American trade.

The North American Free Trade Agreement was written more than 25 years ago and the world has changed dramatically since its enactment. President Donald Trump has made the modernization of trade between our three countries a top priority, and has allowed us the chance to make some much needed updates.

NAFTA was the first international trade agreement that had provisions to protect intellectual property rights. The renegotiation of NAFTA, and the subsequent United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement provides an opportunity to update and improve provisions relating to innovation and intellectual property. USMCA — which has been agreed upon by all three nations’ leaders — would strengthen protections for patents, trademarks and copyrights.

Perhaps just as important to innovation is the ability to develop a new product and have markets to sell it in. USMCA fast-tracks the patent approval process for American products in Mexico and Canada markets, while providing owners of intellectual property certainty their ideas will not be stolen.

This past week, the Mexican Senate has overwhelmingly voted to ratify the agreement. Unfortunately, we are seeing a delay in ratifying USMCA in Congress. Delaying the enactment of USMCA hurts American jobs, border security, agriculture and innovation.

By law, the legislative process to enact this agreement must start in the House. On May 30, 2019, U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer initiated the process for the House to take up the agreement. However, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, R-Calif., has not indicated when or even if she will put this on the House floor for a vote. This indecision is costing all three countries.

USMCA is an improvement and a modernization of NAFTA, and will bring our countries closer together. Our producers, manufacturers, innovators and countless others stand to benefit by the enactment of this trade deal. It is time to pass USMCA.