WASHINGTON – The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) this week released its Summary of Objectives for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Renegotiation, a document that will guide talks with Canada and Mexico expected to begin in mid-August.
In response to the objectives, National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson issued the following statement:
For too long, our nation’s trade negotiators have prioritized a free trade over fair trade agenda, leading to a massive trade deficit, lost jobs and lowered wages in rural communities across America. We are cautiously optimistic that several of the USTR’s recommendations for the NAFTA renegotiation will address the fundamental flaws of free trade agreements.
Free trade agreements have not resulted in a stable positive balance of trade for U.S. agriculture. In 2015, the U.S. had an agricultural trade deficit of $839 million with Canada and $3.3 billion with Mexico. NFU is encouraged by USTR’s emphasis on establishing balanced trade and reducing the national trade deficit, and hopes they will follow through on those objectives during renegotiations.
Currency manipulation has been another unfortunate hallmark of the free trade paradigm, allowing trade competitors to gain an unfair advantage. We are pleased that the objectives include the prevention of exchange rate manipulation, as the issue has been almost entirely overlooked in past trade deals.
However, in many ways the objectives are a missed opportunity for family farmers and ranchers. Though international trade is essential for the financial success of American food producers, free trade agreements such as NAFTA often favor corporate interests over those of working people. Unfortunately, this has led to corporate consolidation in agribusiness, threatening the economic stability of family farmers and ranchers. By neglecting to address the role of free trade in the proliferation of corporate consolidation, the current administration seems content to allow this disturbing and dangerous trend to continue.
We are similarly concerned by the noticeable omission of Country-Of-Origin-Labeling (COOL) for meat products. The lack of accurate labeling undermines independent cattle producers who proudly produce high-quality, American-grown beef and deny consumers the opportunity to know where their food is produced. The administration should reinstate domestic sovereignty by ensuring COOL is a priority for NAFTA renegotiations.
National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.