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Ag groups ask trade negotiators to focus on common ground

As the United States Trade Representative and other elected officials begin to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), presidents from the largest farm and ranch associations remind officials to “Do No Harm.”

Presidents of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) and Consejo Nacional Agropecuario (CNA) met to form a joint agreement today. The joint statement and subsequent letter to trade negotiators was based on the principle of “Do No Harm.” AFBF Zippy Duvall said North American farmers and ranchers greatly benefit from trade deals.

“We have a vital interest in helping our negotiators make improvements, but also to ‘Do No Harm’ to the gains gained in NAFTA. We are committed to preserving and expanding upon the gains that agriculture has achieved and ensure a modernized NAFTA continues to be a success story for North America farmers and ranchers,” Duvall said.

The United States Department of Agriculture expects United States agriculture exports to reach $137 billion and United States agriculture imports to reach $114.5 billion, giving the United States a trade surplus worth $22.5 billion.

Trade negotiators will be presented opportunities to discuss issues concerning commodities, throughout the renegotiation process. Duvall said it is important for trade negotiators to remained focus on the common goals. CFA President Ron Bonnett said the farm leaders found five areas of common ground.

“One is a focus on increased and approved regulatory alignment. The secondary is looking at improving the flow of goods at border crossings. The third is further alignment of science-based sanitary and phytosanitary measures. The elimination of non-science based technical barriers to trade is another area that we need to concentrate on. Then adapting the agreement to technology advances that have been made since 1994,” Bonnett said.

CNA President Bosco de la Vega also spoke about the joint statement, and hoped trade negotiators would reconstruct a strong plan, with continued economic benefits for all three countries.