NAFTA hangs in the Balance

By Harry Siemens – There is much consternation about what will or will not happen to the continuing negotiations of NAFTA. In some cases, the Americans and Canadians are on the same sides, maybe even the Mexicans as it pertains to hogs and pork.

The American Farm Bureau Federation is calling on the Trump Administration to move forward with improvements to the North American Free Trade Agreement but to ensure the United States remains part of the deal.

The AFBF is one group of others that came together to raise the alarm over the potential negative consequences for agriculture if NAFTA fails.

The AFBF spokesman Dave Solmonsen said since the beginning of the year they have actively,  promoted trade focusing on NAFTA.

“The primary message has been, don’t withdraw. Keep NAFTA going. We’ve had the benefits,” Solmonsen said. “We want to continue to grow our opportunities in the North American market, and we need to stay in the agreement, but also we do want these negotiations that began in August and now are expected t continue into the first quarter of 2018 to succeed, to make some necessary changes to NAFTA. It is a 25-year-old agreement.”

He said several parts of U.S. industry and parts in agriculture want to see some changes, want to see improvements in the agreement to make it work better for everybody, but make sure to stay in the deal.

“Before NAFTA U.S. agriculture was selling to Canada and Mexico together about 8.9 billion dollars a year in ag products and now we’re almost 40 billion dollars a year in exports.

Of course, Canada and Mexico have increased their exports to us,” said Solmonsen. “All three countries have grown together, but you put Canada and Mexico together it’s almost a third of all U.S. agricultural exports so again the thing is to try and keep that going.”

He said it’s a good time to modernize the agreement but also focus on the positives NAFTA results.

Colin Robertson, the Vice-President of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said the fate of NAFTA is very much in the hands of U.S. interests who have benefitted from the agreement.

After reaching an impasse NAFTA, negotiators have agreed to delay the start of round-5 and extend the negotiating schedule into the new year.

Robertson said the sense is that the Trump Administration is not interested in reaching an agreement.

“I think this negotiation now is at a critical juncture and so much will depend on the ability of American voices to speak out to their legislators, state and federal congressmen and legislators, the governors, and make it clear that they think that the NAFTA has worked for them.,” he said. “Essentially since about 1995 all we’ve heard is the bad news stories about NAFTA, people losing their jobs and the rest, but there is a good news story to NAFTA.

It is more appreciated in Canada than it is in the United States but, if the NAFTA did not exist there would be significant job loss in the United States.”

Robertson said tariffs would go in place and Canadians would start buying products from Europe where Canada has a free trade agreement. Canada would like to continue improving its trading relationships with Japan, too.

“We’re trying to resurrect the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the group of 11 rather than 12, allowing a docking privilege for the United States,” he said. “We hope with a change of administration or a change of heart that the U.S. would come back in because the United States has been the driver of the international order that has provided free trade and peace and security since 1945.”

Robertson said while it is still possible to reach a negotiated agreement, the U.S. negotiators will need to show greater flexibility and a willingness to negotiate.