Trump administration calls for major improvement to NAFTA

Legislative Watch: Enforcement of Livestock Mandatory Reporting and COOL, NAFTA has failed Americans, protection of NAFTA ag trade urged and call to end Cuba embargo

P. Scott Shearer, Vice President

August 18, 2017

4 Min Read
Trump administration calls for major improvement to NAFTA

As the first round of the North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiations began this week in Washington, D.C., U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer was very direct in his opening comments stating that NAFTA had “fundamentally failed many, many Americans” and needed “major improvement.” He says President Trump was not interested in a “mere tweaking of a few provisions and a couple of updated chapters.” Lighthizer did recognize the importance of NAFTA to U.S. agriculture. He says, “For many of our farmers and ranchers, Canada and Mexico are their largest export markets. Americans send billions of dollars of corn and soybeans, and poultry across our borders to dinner tables throughout North America.”

Earlier the leaders of the largest agricultural organizations in North America, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, American Farm Bureau Federation and Consejo Nacional Agropecuario in a joint letter to the U.S., Canadian and Mexican negotiators urged “do no harm” to agriculture. The leaders say agriculture was willing to work with the negotiators to improve agricultural trade in the North American market by modernizing NAFTA in ways that will preserve and expand on the gains already achieved under the agreement. 

 The organizations say the discussions to increase agricultural trade volumes should include the following. 

• Seeking increased and improved regulatory alignment
• Improving the flow of goods at border crossings
• Further alignment of sanitary and phytosanitary measures
• Elimination of technical barriers to trade
• Adapting the agreement to technological advances since the implementation, such as digital trade, etc.

The first round runs through Sunday.

Land-grant universities urge protection NAFTA ag trade provisions
As NAFTA renegotiations began this week in Washington, D.C., the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities and a number of university leaders are urging the Trump administration to continue to support robust export of U.S. agricultural products to Mexico and Canada facilitated by NAFTA. The group also asks that efforts should be made to seek to expand trade between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. In a letter to the administration, the group says, “We also urge our trade negotiators to seek opportunities to expand such trade in your upcoming discussions with representatives from Canada and Mexico. Agricultural exports are critical to rural America and the whole country.”

Enforcement of Livestock Mandatory Reporting and COOL
The Agricultural Marketing Service has issued a final rule that allows the agency to take action when needed, including levying civil penalties, against violators of the Livestock Mandatory Reporting and Country of Origin Labeling regulations. AMS says, “When someone fails to meet the LMR reporting requirements, it impacts the ability of AMS to publish timely and reliable livestock information that the industry relies on. The COOL program ensures consumers have information regarding the origin of many foods available in the marketplace.” 

AMS will be able to enforce provisions in the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 with fines up to $10,000 per violation of the LMR regulations. Also, the act allows fines for a retailer or person engaged in the business of supplying a covered commodity that willfully violates COOL regulations. Muscle cut and ground lamb, goat and chicken are subject to COOL requirements. Muscle cut and ground beef and pork were removed from COOL requirements in 2016. 

End the Cuba embargo
“The U.S.-Cuba Trade Act of 2017” introduced by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) would end the Cuban embargo by repealing the restrictions that have been in place since the 1960s limiting trade, investment and travel with Cuba. Durbin says, “Ending the embargo is about more than opening the country up to American businesses and travel — it’s about opening Cuba to new ideas, new values and improved human rights that our 50-year-old policy of isolation could not achieve.” 

U.S. agriculture has been able to export to Cuba since 2000 but has seen its sales to Cuba fall over the past few years because of greater competition from international competitors. In 2008, U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba were $685 million and last year sales were approximately $300 million. Cuba imports 70-80% of its agricultural needs. The International Trade Commission found in 2016 that easing U.S. restrictions on trade and business with Cuba could increase U.S. exports by $1.4 billion annually in the next five years.

About the Author(s)

P. Scott Shearer

Vice President, Bockorny Group, Inc.

Scott Shearer is vice president of the Bockorny Group Inc., a leading bipartisan government affairs consulting firm in Washington, D.C. With more than 30 years experience in government and corporate relations in state and national arenas, he is recognized as a leader in agricultural trade issues, having served as co-chairman of the Agricultural Coalition for U.S.-China Trade and co-chairman of the Agricultural Coalition for Trade Promotion Authority. Scott was instrumental in the passage of China Permanent Normal Trade Relations and TPA. He is past chairman of the USDA-USTR Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade in Animals and Animal Products and was a member of the USAID Food Security Advisory Committee. Prior to joining the Bockorny Group, Scott served as director of national relations for Farmland Industries Inc., as well as USDA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional Affairs (1993-96), serving as liaison for the Secretary of Agriculture and the USDA to Congress.

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