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Trump administration to start NAFTA renegotiation

by Bill Tomson

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration Thursday informed Congress it intends to officially begin renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada.

The much-anticipated notification gives Congress a 90-day window to work with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Commerce Department and other agencies to help develop priorities in overhauling the pact with two of our largest trading partners.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, in a statement, blamed NAFTA for the downturn in U.S. manufacturing and promised that President Donald Trump would turn that around. “I look forward working with the President, Ambassador Lighthizer, and our counterparts from Mexico and Canada, to find a solution that is both fair and beneficial for all parties.”

USTR Robert Lighthizer said in a letter to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch that the primary goal is to improve the 23-year old trade pact to include things like protections for digital trade and intellectual property rights, but many farm groups are concerned about protecting the trade advantages they have gained under NAFTA.

“Exports are one pillar of a strong farm economy, accounting for 31 percent of farmer income. Nowhere is the importance of trade stronger than right here in North America,” National Corn Growers Association President Wesley Spurlock said in a statement. “Since NAFTA was implemented, U.S. agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico have tripled and quintupled, respectively. We export billions of dollars of corn and corn products to these countries each year.”

Much of that success is because under NAFTA, most tariffs on U.S. agricultural exports have dropped to zero, a situation that farm groups like NCGA want to maintain.

The U.S. exported about $35 million worth of corn to Mexico in 1993, the year before NAFTA went into force, according to USDA data. Last year the U.S. sold $2.6 billion worth of corn to Mexico.

Wheat farmers also want to protect the gains they’ve made under the trade deal.

Read the full story at Agri-Pulse.com