Canada, Mexico and US meat industries unite on NAFTA talks

By Aidan Fortune

- Last updated on GMT

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said NAFTA should be 'modernized'
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said NAFTA should be 'modernized'
The Trump administration’s notification to “modernize” the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has spurred the Canadian, Mexican and US beef industries to join forces.

Following the notification by US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to Congress that the President of the United States Donald Trump wants to renegotiate the trade agreement, beef associations from the three nations have taken action.

In the letter to Congress notifying the intent to “modernize​” the trade agreement, Lighthizer said: “The United States seeks to support higher-paying jobs in the United States and to grow the US economy by improving US opportunities under NAFTA​.

‘Detailed and comprehensive’

We note that NAFTA was negotiated 25 years ago, and while our economy and businesses have changed considerably over that period, NAFTA has not. Many chapters are outdated and do not reflect modern standards.

Our aim is that NAFTA be modernized to include new provisions to address intellectual property rights, regulatory practices, state-owned enterprises, services, customs procedures, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, labor, environment, and small and medium enterprises.​”

The notification begins a 90-day period in which Trump trade officials must consult with Congress on the trade talks. Within 30 days prior to negotiations starting, the administration must make public a “detailed and comprehensive summary of the specific objectives” for a new NAFTA agreement.

‘Strong support’ from cattle producers

In an appeal from National Cattlemen’s Beef Association​ president Craig Uden, Dan Darling, president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association​, and Oswaldo Chazaro Montalvo, president of the Confederación Nacional de Organizaciones Ganaderas, the three organisations urged President Trump, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada and President Enrique Pena Nieto of Mexico not to jeopardize the success of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Recent statements about the possible dissolution of NAFTA or potential renegotiation of NAFTA are deeply concerning to us because of the unnecessary risk it places on our producers. While there may be general agreement among the countries to improve some parts of the NAFTA trade framework, we urge you to recognize that the terms of the agreement affecting cattle producers are strongly supported as they currently exist and should not be altered."

The three bodies also warned against reintroducing Country of Origin Labelling.

We also encourage you to reject efforts to use NAFTA as a platform to resurrect failed policies of the past, especially the misguided mandatory country-of-origin labeling policy that was the law of the United States for over seven years. MCOOL failed to deliver its proponents’ promise to increase consumer demand or consumer confidence. Instead, it created massive disruptions in live cattle trade that hurt beef producers across North America and jeopardized the jobs of American workers that depend on processing those cattle. Furthermore, MCOOL drew the United States, Mexico, and Canada into a long and unnecessary legal battle in the World Trade Organization that cost taxpayers of all three countries millions of dollars in resources that could have been spent elsewhere. We urge you to learn from the mistakes of the past, and not to repeat them.​”

Pork producers against tariffs

Meanwhile the National Pork Producers Council​ (NPPC) also urged the President to make sure that tariffs remain at zero for pork traded in North America.

According to NPPC data, US pork exports to Canada and Mexico were almost $799 million and nearly $1.4 billion respectively in 2016.

Canada and Mexico are top pork export markets. We absolutely must not have any disruptions in exports to our No. 2 (Mexico) and No. 4 (Canada) markets,​” said NPPC president Ken Maschhoff. “US pork trade with Canada and Mexico has been very robust, and we need to maintain and even improve that trade. We will work with the Trump administration to do that as it reviews the existing trade deal with our North American neighbors.​”

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