Clements: The recent round of NAFTA negotiations saw progress on agriculture issues. In Mexico City last week, negotiators wrapped up discussions regarding sanitary and phytosanitary measures, according to American Farm Bureau Federation economist Veronica Nigh.
Nigh: Those are basically the scientific rules that govern trade in plants and animals. That chapter actually closed and that means negotiations are finished. And, when we spoke with the U.S. negotiators they were pretty happy with the results that they got out of Canada and Mexico.
Clements: Nigh says the NAFTA chapter on technical barriers to trade, including things such as labeling, is close to being finished. However, she says there is much work yet to do regarding market access.
Nigh: We’ve had a lot of concerns about the access U.S. dairy farmers and poultry producers have in Canada. We’ve asked Canada to give us significant new availability to send our products to their customers. And, so far, we’re having quite a lot of resistance to that. So, that will probably be one of those topics that is concluded at the very end because it is such a thorny issue for our Canadian friends.
Clements: Negotiators previously planned to conclude negotiations by the end of this month. However, another round of talks is scheduled in April, and Nigh tells farmers and ranchers not to expect NAFTA to be finished this year.
Nigh: I think it’s well known that Mexico has a presidential election this summer, the U.S. midterms are in November and will have an impact because the legislators tend to not want to vote on free trade agreements in any country during an election cycle. So, I think its safe to say that we’re not expecting a concluded NAFTA by the end of 2018 at this given point.
Clements: Micheal Clements, Washington.