It has been one month since President Trump formally notified Congress that his administration intends to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico. Now the process is under way. This week Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is meeting with his counterparts from those two countries to start the dialogue about how we improve NAFTA.
In rural America, neighbors help each other and they learn to work together. We should be able to have a constructive dialogue with our neighbor nations about ensuring NAFTA helps, not harms, our farmers. U.S. agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico have quadrupled since NAFTA took effect. America’s farmers and ranchers value their neighbors to the south and north and appreciate the important markets we’ve developed and grown in both countries. We must protect the trade gains we have made. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make improvements or shouldn’t talk about problems that have come up under the decades-old agreement.
For example, we should be able to find ways for our consumers to benefit from imports of Mexican produce when those items aren’t in season here. But we should also ensure those imports do not unfairly or directly compete against our own production in seasons when those items are produced here. We should be able to persuade Canada to lower tariff barriers that are hindering our dairy, poultry, egg and wine exports to that country.
Much like neighbors might work together to solve a problem or improve the neighborhood, it’s time for these neighbors—Canada, Mexico and the United States—to talk things over, ensure NAFTA provides a fair give-and-take, and make NAFTA even better for the farmers and ranchers of each country.
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.