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NAFTA and farm bill unlikely to conclude in 2018

Photo by Ben Nuelle

Trade officials, negotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), are closing chapters and U.S. House members are opening discussions in a sharply divided Agriculture Committee. The trilateral treaty and farm bill face major challenges to gain approval this year.

Disagreements among House Agriculture Committee members regarding the nutrition title are stalling farm bill movement. Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) says there will not be a farm bill markup next week, citing the committee’s progress in “negotiating to a yes” from both Republicans and Democrats. Conaway and House Democrats are in conflict over the way the nutrition title handles the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), according to the Hagstrom Report

The decision means Chairman Conaway will not meet his goal of holding a markup on the farm bill in the first quarter of 2018. Ranking Democrat on the Committee Collin Peterson, of Minnesota, says Democrats on the committee cannot support the bill in its current form. Last week, Peterson said the Republican proposal regarding nutrition is similar to what killed the current farm bill the first time it came to the House floor in 2013.

Trade officials in Mexico say they hope to close seven chapters in the next round of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) talks, planned for Washington, D.C. next month.

Mexico trade officials told Politico the next round goal is to close seven chapters that are 90% complete and include telecommunications, digital trade, technical barriers to trade, energy, state-owned enterprises and financial services. Mexico expects next round talks to close 13, or 14 chapters, if all goes well. Agriculture trade, including the trade of dairy products, are not expected to be negotiated until the final rounds of trade talks.

An American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) economist speculates the renegotiation process won’t be finished by the end of 2018. Negotiators from the United States, Mexico and Canada have closed six chapters and four annexes thus far. All three countries face various elections later this year, which will slow the process.