Vice President Mike Pence visited the Schultz Center in Jacksonville Monday to kick off a 26 city tour to build support for a new trade deal.
Pence was joined by Florida Republicans; including Senator Rick Scott, Representative John Rutherford, and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry to tout President Donald Trump’s U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
Curry said Jacksonville’s economy stands to benefit from the trade deal.
“We’re strategically aligned the way our St. Johns River meets the Atlantic Ocean. Two interstates, major interstates, that go north, south and east, west. Combined with our rail system, we are positioned very well as a city,” the mayor said.
The agreement is a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that was signed last November, but it still needs congressional approval.
Pence said, by doing away with import taxes, the agreement would level the playing field for American farmers.
“We've negotiated for Mexico and Canada to lift their retaliatory tariffs on American pork, cheese and orange juice,” he said. Under this new agreement, Florida's farmers are going to win like never before.”
Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat, is among those pushing back on that claim. She writes in a statement that the agreement could put Florida farms out of business because Mexican farmers would be allowed to sell what she called “artificially low-priced” crops in the U.S.
“That’s why I’ve encouraged Florida’s Congressional delegation to not support the USMCA until our seasonal crop growers get the protections they deserve,” she wrote. “If the Trump Administration wants to put America first, they should put Florida’s farmers first, and help them compete on a level playing field.”
Agriculture is Florida’s second-largest industry, with about 47,000 farmers supporting two million jobs, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) will need to bring the agreement up for a vote, but no date have been announced yet.
“We can’t afford Congress to do nothing,” Pence said. “We need Congress to approve the USMCA to keep America growing.
Pence has visited Jacksonville before — most recently for a fundraiser in March. He was also in town in October to rally for then-gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis, who went on to win the race for governor.
After the event, which was hosted by nonprofit America First Policies, Pence went to Naval Air Station Jacksonville to speak with military families.