Do No Harm: Ag groups remind governments of NAFTA benefits as 90-day countdown begins

(Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

As the Trump administration formally starts the process of re-opening the North American Free Trade Agreement, agriculture industry groups continue to remind the governments involved about the benefits of the existing deal.

It’s a message that will be repeated often during the 90-day countdown to when renegotiations could begin, after U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer formally notified Congress on Thursday.

Representatives from the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, U.S. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), and Mexico’s Confederación Nacional de Organizaciones Ganaderas met in Mexico this week to discuss what’s happening with NAFTA. CCA president Dan Darling and his counterparts from the U.S. and Mexico issued a joint letter urging Prime Minister Trudeau, President Trump and President Nieto “not to jeopardize the success of the men, women and families engaged in the cattle and beef industries of each of our countries, who depend on the success that market access provides under NAFTA.”

The letter also urges the leaders to reject efforts to use the NAFTA renegotiation as a vehicle to bring back mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) policy.

Meanwhile, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) urged caution, with ‘do no harm’ as a priority.

“If the administration intends on renegotiating NAFTA, it must guarantee growers that new terms won’t reverse the significant benefits for U.S. wheat farmers, like duty free access,” said David Schemm, a wheat farmer from Sharon Springs, Kan., and NAWG president on Thursday morning. “Despite the risks, there’s an opportunity here to get better trade rules in place that will set the gold standard for trade agreements going forward, without hurting wheat farmers and their importing customers.”

National Corn Growers Association president Wesley Spurlock urged Lighthizer to remember the interests of U.S. agriculture.

“Nowhere is the importance of trade stronger than right here in North America. Since NAFTA was implemented, U.S. agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico have tripled and quintupled, respectively. We export billions of dollars of corn and corn products to these countries each year,” he noted.

And we can expect these sorts of statements and messages to continue through August 16, the earliest date on which the trilateral negotiations could begin. Lighthizer’s office must publish a list of goals for the negotiations at least 30 days prior to the talks beginning.

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Kelvin Heppner

Kelvin Heppner is a field editor for Real Agriculture based near Altona, Manitoba. Prior to joining Real Ag he spent more than 10 years working in radio. He farms with his father near Rosenfeld, MB and is on Twitter at

@realag_kelvin

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