It’s Time to Get Serious on NAFTA

Zippy Duvall

The sixth round of North American Free Trade Agreement talks are under way in Canada. Farm Bureau’s priority throughout the renegotiation has been, and remains, to do no harm to agricultural trade between the NAFTA countries.

An additional goal of the American Farm Bureau Federation, as well as President Trump and his trade team, is to make the agreement better for U.S. agriculture and other sectors of our economy. To achieve that, Canada’s negotiators need to engage fully in the talks and help us move forward.

The United States has offered a proposal to update rules concerning trade disruptions due to animal and plant health risks. We’re asking Canada to improve market access by eliminating tariffs on dairy and poultry going into Canada. Canadian tariffs on dairy products average a whopping 250 percent, so clearly there is room for improvement. Now it’s time for Canada to respond. Any deal, whether you’re buying farmland or livestock, involves give and take. It’s time for some serious horse trading. 

American Farm Burea Federation President Zippy Duvall was re-elected on Jan. 9.

Canada already has a blueprint for what is doable. In the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, Canada agreed to eliminate a 208 percent tariff on whey and create a new, permanent tariff-rate quota for dairy products. Canada also has provided more market access under its new agreement with the European Union. Now we look forward to seeing what comes out of the discussion to expand trade among our continental neighbors.

NAFTA has been a big success for U.S. agriculture. Canada and Mexico are our No. 2 and No. 3 markets for ag exports (China is No. 1), and our farm exports have quadrupled in the years since NAFTA first went into effect. But as beneficial as NAFTA has been for U.S. farmers and ranchers, future trade deals could be even more promising, tapping into new, growing markets in the Pacific Rim and other parts of the world. The sooner we wrap up the NAFTA negotiations, the sooner our trade officials can turn their attention to negotiating new trade agreements focused not just on improving the markets we already have, but on expanding access to markets that promise growth for U.S. exports all around the globe.  

Duvall is president of the American Farm Bureau Association