Ag Policy Blog

Senators Demand Economic Analysis if NAFTA Talks Change Ag Trade

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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A bipartisan group of 18 senators from major agricultural states felt the need to revisit some comments made about agriculture and trade by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

The senators wrote Ross on Monday stating that it's "imperative" that the Trump administration share economic analysis on the supply chain of any industries that would face changes made to the North American Free Trade Agreement, or any other free-trade agreement that is renegotiated.

Ross made some statements last month suggesting that agricultural exports would not be hurt too badly if the U.S. pulled out of NAFTA. "Unless countries are going to be prepared to have their people go hungry or change their diets, I think it's more of a threat to try to frighten the agricultural community," Ross said in early October.

The senators highlighted the importance of U.S. agricultural exports as an economic drive in rural America. Every $1 billion in agricultural exports supports 8,000 jobs, the senators stated.

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"The agriculture industry does not want to see momentum hindered especially at a time when net farm income has declined approximately 50% over the past four years," the senators wrote.

The senators added, "International markets have taken years to build, and it is imperative that no steps be taken to jeopardize these gains. We must continue to move the global presence of U.S. agricultural products forward, not backward."

The senators' letter was signed by Sen Pat Roberts of Kansas, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, as well as John Boozman of Arkansas, Heidi Heitkamp and John Hoeven of North Dakota, Michael Rounds and John Thune of South Dakota, John Cornyn of Texas, Johnny Isakson of Mississippi, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Joni Ernst and Charles Grassley of Iowa, Steve Daines of Montana, Luther Strange of Alabama, Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Rob Portman of Ohio and Jeff Flake of Arizona,

Senators' letter to Ross: https://goo.gl/…

The latest round of NFATA talks don't appear to be headed of any major breakthrough as they are scheduled to wrap up Tuesday in Mexico City. Prior to those talks kicking off the U.S. Trade Representative's Office released an updated set of goals for the renegotiations. Regarding agriculture, the USTR document stated a key objective in agriculture would be "eliminating remaining Canadian tariffs on imports of U.S. dairy, poultry and egg products."

The U.S. also wants "reasonable adjustment periods for U.S. imports on sensitive agricultural products" that would delay or reduce imports of fruits and vegetables, primarily from Mexico.

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

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