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NAFTA Talks Again Underway

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Importance-of-NAFTARound five of the North American Free Trade Agreement talks are set to begin Friday in Mexico City. However, talks will unofficially begin Wednesday. Much of the two-day prelude to the official talks are expected to focus on textiles, labor, cross-border trade, and intellectual property. There is little expectation of talks regarding agriculture, at least for the start of the negotiations. The Trump administration must still find a way to address Canada’s dairy supply management system, among other agriculture issues.

The idea for agriculture is to get a better deal for the United States when working with Canada and Mexico. But recent rhetoric and delays in the renegotiation are raising concerns over the trade deal’s future. American Farm Bureau Federation says the North American Free Trade Agreement is critical for farmers and ranchers.

One state Farm Bureau president, Blake Hurst from Missouri, says U.S. agriculture depends on NAFTA.

“We hope we’ll see progress in the NAFTA renegotiations. There’s obviously progress that can be made, phytosanitary problems at the border, improvement with our trade in dairy with the Canadians But, 70 percent of Missouri farmers’ exports go to either Canada or Mexico, we depend on this trade agreement.”

Hurst says recent rhetoric regarding trade is troubling to farmers. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue understands NAFTA’s positive impact on agriculture, but farmer concern grew when Perdue recently publicly expressed concern about the trade agreement’s future.

“That’s something that will keep you up at night,” Hurst said. “And, I know Secretary Perdue is a very smart and a very capable leader of agriculture and we are happy to have him where he is, but if he’s that concerned, then I’m really concerned.”

Withdrawal or failure to reach an agreement for NAFTA, Hurst says, would result in an economic disaster for agriculture.

“Tariffs on our exports to Mexico for example are zero, they would go up to an average of 15 percent. So, you see a 15 percent price increase and you’re going to see a probably less than 15 percent drop in demand, but maybe not, maybe its greater than that. You start talking about a 15 percent decline in already unprofitable prices and your talking about an economic emergency in agriculture.”

The administration is hoping to wrap up the talks by the end of March. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says the negotiations do not have a hard deadline, but says if a resolution is not reached by the end of March, “The political calendar will make it very difficult to complete a deal.”

Source: NAFB News Service