Big Lobbies Weigh In on NAFTA Talks

Oct 12, 2017  | 3 min  | Ep4308

Back in inside the beltway, trade negotiators in Washington felt the heat as well. With hundreds of billions in the balance, two extra days of discussion were added to the battle over the two-decade old trade pact.

President Donald Trump welcomed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the White House to discuss many topics, chiefly, the North American Free Trade Agreement.

NAFTA negotiations entered round 4 and agriculture was likely to be the focus of the session. The president is holding his position of potentially walking away from the pact between Mexico and Canada that erased barriers between the countries and led to an explosion of trade.

Trump wants more than minor tweaks to the existing pact.

Donald Trump, U.S. President: "I think Justin understands this, if we can't make a deal it will be terminated and that will be fine. They are going to do well and we are going to do well, but maybe that won't be necessary. But it has to be fair to both countries.”

The Prime Minister of Canada sounded the optimism bell in his appearance in Washington, D.C.  

Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada: “I know how good NAFTA has been for millions of citizens of Canada, the United States and indeed Mexico. I know that there are opportunities to significantly improve this trade deal in ways that will benefit citizens right across the United States.”

Late last week, the nation’s biggest business group, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said withdrawing from NAFTA would be a quote "political and economic debacle" that would cost hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs.

This week, the nation’s largest agriculture group, the American Farm Bureau Federation announced they were joining a group called “Farmers for Free Trade” in an effort to have a seat at the table in working out trade deals.

Tom Vilsack, U.S. Dairy Export Council: “You can’t paint these trade agreements with too broad of a brush. You can’t say a trade agreement is totally bad, because there are certain aspects of the economy that benefit from these trade agreements and certainly NAFTA has benefitted agriculture, there’s no question about that.”

Former Secretary of Agriculture and current President and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council says agriculture combined with the food processing industry consists of 23 million jobs, more than any other industry impacted by NAFTA. USDA says the impact of just agricultural trade under the pact is nearly ¼ of a trillion dollars annually.

Tom Vilsack, U.S. Dairy Export Council: “From a dairy perspective, the problems would be we really would lose the opportunity to open that Canadian market. Political pressure here and in Canada in that closed system, give EU yet another opportunity like when we pulled out of TransPacific Partnership, to move into the void we would create.”

Vilsack and others in the dairy industry would like to see the elimination of Canada’s supply management system which is a closed market for the Canadian producer. Canada also wants greater access to the U.S. consumer.

For Market to Market, I’m Paul Yeager.

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