U.S. should create a fair trade framework that puts farmers first
WASHINGTON – As the Trump Administration navigates a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), National Farmers Union (NFU) is urging the administration to establish a new, fair trade framework for international trade deals that benefits family farmers, ranchers, and rural residents.
In public comments submitted today to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, NFU President Roger Johnson highlighted the shortcomings of the United States’ current free trade paradigm, citing its contribution to the massive U.S. trade deficit and abandonment of U.S. sovereignty to the detriment of farming and rural communities. He urged Lighthizer to use the NAFTA renegotiation as an opportunity to create a new, fair trade framework for future trade deal negotiations.
“While exports and trade are essential to family farmers and ranchers, free trade agreements too often result in the corporate consolidation of power that ultimately undermines the economic opportunity for farmers,” Johnson wrote. “Renegotiation of NAFTA should prioritize family farmers and ranchers, not agribusiness, and the working people across our country.”
In his comments, Johnson stated that NFU has long been concerned with the nation’s massive and persistent trade deficit that U.S. trade negotiators have failed to address in past negotiations. In 2016, the U.S. accumulated a trade deficit of $502.3 billion, which represented a 3 percent drag on the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP).
“While agriculture typically maintains a trade surplus, which is beneficial, it represents less than 4 percent of the overall trade deficit,” he added. “Unfortunately, in recent years, even the agricultural trade surplus has declined. Free trade agreements have not resulted in a stable positive balance of trade for U.S. agriculture.”
Johnson noted that free trade agreements – which typically operate under the framework that NAFTA initiated – have benefitted multinational corporations, often at the expense of farming and rural communities.
For example, NAFTA was the first trade agreement to include the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions that give investors special privileges in international trade. “These protections allow for and encourage the offshoring of domestic jobs and threaten the sovereignty and democratic policies of the U.S. and our trading partners,” contended Johnson.
Johnson maintained that free trade agreements have stripped the U.S. of its sovereignty. He urged the Trump Administration to rework NAFTA to allow for domestic sovereignty over laws regarding food and agriculture.
“The Administration should include restoring Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) as one of the chief negotiation objectives in agriculture,” said Johnson. “COOL is one strong example of a popular domestic law that has been usurped by free trade deals that undermine our nation’s ability to pass and maintain laws for the benefit of America.”
“Agriculture has been central to the advocacy efforts around free trade agreements for decades. NFU stands ready to assist USTR and the Administration in creating a new fair trade paradigm,” Johnson concluded.