U.S. Wheat organizations comment on NAFTA renegotiation objectives
On July 17, the Trump administration released its objectives for renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and U.S. wheat farmers, who are facing low prices and increasingly aggressive wheat exporting competitors, are encouraged to see that the interests of agriculture are an important part of the administration’s priorities.
“Because NAFTA helped make Mexico one of the most important export markets for U.S. wheat, our main priority right now is to do no harm to wheat trade,” said David Schemm, President of the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) and wheat farmer from Sharon Springs, Kansas. “We are happy to see that the objectives call for maintaining existing reciprocal duty-free market access for agricultural goods. Mexican buyers import more of the wheat my neighbors and I grow than any other country and we can’t afford to risk interrupting that positive relationship with our customers.”
Wheat farmers agree with the administration that renegotiation can set the stage for a stronger NAFTA and new standards for trade agreements going forward. A good place to start is with the updated rules on sanitary and phytosanitary health and safety standards that the three countries already agreed to as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiation.
“The United States, Canada and Mexico are all strong advocates of free trade and science-based regulations,” said Mike Miller, U.S. Wheat (USW) Chairman and wheat farmer from Ritzville, Washington. “We should go big in this negotiation and agree to align around those gold standard rules. That will ensure that all three countries can’t throw out regulations that are just flimsy excuses to restrict trade.”
NAWG and USW also want to see a change in Canada’s restrictions on cross-border trade.
“We believe wheat should be allowed to cross the border and be treated equally,” Miller said. “Today Canadian wheat can move into our handling system freely, but U.S. wheat farmers don’t have the same opportunity in Canada. NAFTA renegotiation is a good context with which to address this issue.”