Wheat Industry Looks for New NAFTA Opportunities, But Priority Remains Do No Harm
WASHINGTON, DC (May 18, 2017) – U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) urge caution today as the Trump Administration officially submitted to Congress its notice of intent to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The U.S. wheat industry welcomes the opportunity for improving the framework for cross border wheat trade between the United States, Canada, and Mexico, but would strongly oppose changes that might limit the current NAFTA’s benefits for wheat farmers and their customers, particularly in the Mexican food processing industries.
Since NAFTA entered into force on Jan. 1, 1994, trade has boomed between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Specifically, NAFTA delivered a winning combination of free trade on a level playing field and a growing Mexican middle class with the income to demand better products, including food using imported wheat. Following years of market development work and duty free access, Mexico dramatically increased its U.S. wheat imports after NAFTA and imports in the current marketing year are up 40 percent, making Mexico our largest buyer.
“I cannot emphasize enough how important our Mexican customers are to U.S. wheat farmers,” said Jason Scott, a wheat farmer from Easton, Md., and USW Chairman. “There is nothing wrong with modernizing a 23-year-old agreement, but that must be done in a way that benefits the food and agriculture sectors in both countries.”
Negotiating a new NAFTA certainly can make improvements. A good place to start are the sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) rules that the three countries already agreed to as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.
“If the administration intends on renegotiating NAFTA, it must guarantee growers that new terms won’t reverse the significant benefits for U.S. wheat farmers, like duty free access,” said David Schemm, a wheat farmer from Sharon Springs, Kan., and NAWG President. “Despite the risks, there’s an opportunity here to get better trade rules in place that will set the gold standard for trade agreements going forward, without hurting wheat farmers and their importing customers.”
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USW’s mission is to “develop, maintain, and expand international markets to enhance the profitability of U.S. wheat producers and their customers.” USW activities in more than 100 countries are made possible through producer checkoff dollars managed by 18 state wheat commissions and cost-share funding provided by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. For more information, visit our website at www.uswheat.org.
NAWG is a federation of more than 20 state wheat grower associations that works to represent the needs and interests of wheat producers before Congress and federal agencies. Based in Washington, DC, NAWG is grower-governed and grower-funded, and works in areas as diverse as federal farm policy, trade, environmental regulation, agricultural research and sustainability. For more information, visit our website at www.wheatworld.org.