Farm groups want modernized NAFTA

Farm groups from Canada, Mexico and the U.S. are calling for key reforms

NAFTA should be modernized through five significant reforms rather than dismantled, say national farm organizations from Canada, the United States and Mexico.

Agriculture represents one of NAFTA’s biggest success stories, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, the American Farm Bureau and Consejo Nacional Agropecuario said in a joint letter to the leaders of the three countries. Leaders of the organizations met in Washington to discuss the potential impact on the agri-food sector from the NAFTA renegotiation talks.

Agricultural reciprocal trade between the three countries has grown exponentially since the agreement was implemented in 1994, they said.

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The agreement should be modernized by increased and improved regulatory alignment, improved movement of goods at border crossings, further alignment of sanitary and phytosanitary measures using a science-based approach, elimination of non-science-based technical barriers to trade and revisions that reflect technological advances since implementation such as digital trade.

If NAFTA is dismantled, “the agriculture industries in each NAFTA country would greatly suffer from disruptions to trading relationships developed over the last 23 years. Farmers have increased productivity and improved their competitiveness to address the rapidly growing demand worldwide for healthy and sustainable food products. Losses due to NAFTA changes would severely stunt this progress.”

The three groups will pressure their governments to do no harm in the NAFTA talks and focus on looking for ways to increase trade volumes.

CFA president Ron Bonnett said “NAFTA has boosted the incomes of millions of farmers and has facilitated the development of profitable export markets.”

Farm Bureau president Zippy Duvall said, “When it comes to overall positive results for North America’s farmers and ranchers, NAFTA has proved itself as a solid foundation for trade. Just as farmers have new tools and technology for food and fibre production, we believe that an updated NAFTA agreement can help the three nations become even stronger trading partners.”

CNA president Bosco de la Vega said it is very clear “the NAFTA agreement has had a positive impact for the agricultural sector, including the exponential increase in trade flows between its partners.” He added, currently NAFTA markets are characterized by a high level of complementarity, the possibility to face the challenge of food security in a better way, through an open trade system with clear and fair rules.

“Taking these into account, we believe that today the NAFTA members have a big opportunity to even increase this positive outcome,” he said.

The joint letter said that agriculture provides “employment all along the value chain to ensure that Canadian, Mexican and U.S. consumers have access to high-quality, safe and affordable food. A key part of this success, as it is related to agricultural trade and commerce, comes from collaboration among the three countries.

“Together Canada, Mexico and the United States make up one of the most competitive and successful economic regions in the world,” the letter said. “The success of this trading relationship has come largely from economic co-operation, integration and policy alignment. In the 20 years since NAFTA was implemented, agricultural production has become increasingly efficient and innovative. The market integration provided by NAFTA has increased competitiveness in the face of a rapidly changing global economy.”

If a new NAFTA addresses the concerns of the three farm groups, agriculture will be in an even stronger position to compete on world markets. The three groups “are committed to preserving and expanding upon the gains our sector has achieved within the North American market and ensuring that a modernized NAFTA continues to be a success story for all farmers and ranchers.”

This article was originally published in the Aug. 31, 2017 issue of the Manitoba Co-operator.

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