U.S. agricultural groups are stepping up their efforts to preserve the benefits of North America’s trilateral trade deal.
With hopes to conclude the pact by next spring, Mexico City is the host of the new Nov. 17-21 round of talks by the U.S., Canada and Mexico to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Mexico and Canada have pushed back against the U.S. proposal for a 5-year sunset for the reworked trade deal, and U.S. proposals on dairy and seasonal trade protection for perishable producers also have met resistance.
While U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross warned that the Trump administration was impatient with the progress of the talks, U.S. agriculture leaders have urged Congress and negotiators that any modernization of NAFTA should do no harm to current trade relations between the three countries. In addition, the United Fresh Produce Association and other agriculture groups have urged Congress to take an active role in ensuring the U.S. does not pull out of the agreement, Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for United Fresh, said in an e-mail.
Mike Stuart, president of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, Maitland, Fla., said that the association continues to “strongly support” a provision that would provide anti-dumping protection for seasonal producers of perishable products in the U.S.
“We greatly appreciate the efforts of the administration in moving it forward in the negotiations,” he said in an e-mail Nov. 15.
“The main drumbeat from ag broadly has been to try to remind all the players there of how beneficial NAFTA has been for agriculture,” said Kam Quarles, vice president of public policy for the National Potato Council. “Improvements can be made but pulling out would be a catastrophe across American ag, so that’s the most consistent message that you hear.”
Ultimately, Quarles said all three countries must be able to take an agreement back to their legislatures and to their people and sell them that they will benefit from the agreement.
“No party wants to say that they went into a negotiation and they had to provide all the benefits and get none in return,” he said.