Three friends meet in Georgia for ice cream and NAFTA trilateral ag meeting


For all the tough talk from the White House with trade negotiations looming later this summer, the first in-person meeting between the top agriculture officials for Canada, the U.S. and Mexico appears to have been a very friendly and folksy affair.

Canada’s Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay, U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue and Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture Jose Calzada, together with their spouses, enjoyed some southern hospitality at Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room before going for dessert at Leopold’s Ice Cream in Savannah, Georgia on Monday night.

The more formal meeting between MacAulay, Perdue, Calzada and top ag staff took place on Tuesday morning, where they, to no surprise, reaffirmed their commitment to open trade, as well as collaboration on plant and animal health issues, and research, according to a joint statement (read the whole statement here).

“The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has greatly helped our respective agricultural sectors as well as our consumers who have benefitted from an ever-growing variety of safe, affordable food products all year around. While even the best trading partnerships face challenges from time to time, our agricultural differences are relatively few in the context of the $85 billion in agricultural trade that flows between our three nations each year” — joint statement from MacAulay, Perdue and Calzada

“Our visit to Georgia fostered the mutual understanding and personal relationships that will help North American agriculture thrive, improve our regional partnership and collaboration, and strengthen our trading relationship,” they said.

This marked the second time in the last three weeks that MacAulay and Perdue have met face-to-face, after the ag secretary made his first international trip to Toronto earlier this month.

It’s easy to question whether the friendship is genuine with the obvious political implications, as all three countries look to gain an upper hand in NAFTA renegotiation. Staged or not, it looks like this won’t be the end of this friendliness, as officials have indicated there are plans to have Perdue visit MacAulay’s home province of PEI this summer.

Related: U.S. Ag Secretary Perdue meets with MacAulay in Toronto


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