State ag officials join Mexican, Canadian counterparts for Tri-National Agricultural Accord
The North American Free Trade Agreement negotiators finished up round 4 behind closed doors, with another stale-mate on any decision of a makeover on the 23-year-old trade agreement. Canada and Mexico are pushing for free trade, but the U.S. is the hold out, and negotiators are not making any promises on the impasse, with the next meeting on Nov. 17, in Mexico City.
U.S. ag groups, like the National Milk Producers Federation, appreciate the U.S.’s strong stand in the negotiations.
“The proposal advanced by the U.S. Trade Representative is the right approach to move dairy trade between our two countries closer to the free trade relationship that exists for most other agricultural products under NAFTA. For too long, Canada’s exorbitant tariffs on dairy imports — in the range of 250-300 percent — have been at odds with an overall free trade policy between our countries. The administration’s proposal to reduce those tariffs and increase dairy trade between the United States and Canada is good for consumers on both sides of the border,” NMPF said in a statement.
But some in U.S. ag production are concerned that pulling out of the agreement will be a huge loss.
“Canada and Mexico are top markets for our pork, so, obviously, we don’t want any disruptions in our exports to those countries; we need to keep pork trade flowing,” said National Pork Producer’s President Ken Maschhoff, from Carlyle, Ill. “We want to reiterate to the Trump administration that NAFTA has been a boon to the U.S. pork industry and to all of American agriculture.”
As the debate and discussion continue members of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and their counterparts from Mexico and Canada gathered in Denver on Oct. 18, for the 26th annual Tri-National Agricultural Accord, with NAFTA as the main topic. A short news briefing with the three countries’ representatives was held, including NASDA President and Connecticut Commissioner of Agriculture Steven Reviczky, Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Jeff Leal and Jalisco Secretary of Rural Development Héctor Padilla Gutiérrez.
The Tri-National Agricultural Accord represents a long-standing commitment among the senior state and provincial agricultural officials of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico to work together collaboratively on agricultural trade and development issues. The vital importance of the NAFTA for the agriculture and food processing economies of all three countries was the key focus.
“We have the largest U.S. delegation in accord history gathered here this week in a strong statement of U.S. agriculture’s commitment to maintaining the vital relationship we have with Mexico and Canada,” Reviczky said. “As NAFTA negotiations continue, we as state leaders are committed to advocating for a modernized NAFTA that preserves the gains agriculture has made to ensure agricultural trade with our North American neighbors will continue to grow and prosper.”
But the impasse concern was evident in the short briefing.
Gutiérrez said Mexico is “very nervous,” that an agreement would not be met among the three countries, taking a huge step backwards. “If we aren’t successful or don’t have good outcomes with new negotiation phases, we will all lose. The effects will be felt by every one of the states and provinces of our three countries,” Gutiérrez said.
The benefits of NAFTA were briefly discussed, and a general consensus came from all three, that the tangible benefits were clear.
“We believe there are opportunities to modernize the agreement,” Leal said.
“As our federal governments continue to negotiate a modernized NAFTA, it is imperative that the gains agriculture has made under NAFTA are preserved and that we ‘do no harm’ so that agricultural trade with our North American neighbors can continue to grow and prosper,” Reviczky said.
The Tri-National Agricultural Accord is hosted by one of the three countries each year. In the U.S., the accord is hosted through the NASDA. The 2018 Tri-National Agricultural Accord will be hosted by Mexico.
NASDA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit association which represents the elected and appointed commissioners, secretaries and directors of the departments of agriculture in all 50 states and four U.S. territories. NASDA grows and enhances agriculture by forging partnerships and creating consensus to achieve sound policy outcomes between state departments of agriculture, the federal government, and stakeholders. ❖
— Eatherton is a freelance writer from Beaulah, Wyo. When she’s not writing, she’s riding her horse or playing with her grandson. She can be reached at email@example.com.