NAFTA renegotiation, local rice farmers concerned

President Trump gave formal notice Thursday he will renegotiate NAFTA, the free trade deal between the US, Canada and Mexico. "We absolutely must not have any disruptions in exports to our No. 2 (Mexico) and No. 4 (Canada) markets", said NPPC President Ken Maschhoff, a pork producer from Carlyle, Ill.

According to US data, Germany and Mexico a year ago both ran trade surpluses of more than $60 billion with the United States, sparking complaints of unfair treatment from Trump, who has threatened aggressive measures to eliminate the deficit. Mexico would also likely oppose efforts to compensate US producers for Mexico's value-added tax, which refunds taxes charged on inputs used to produce exported goods.

Lighthizer said he hopes the negotiations will be completed by the end of 2017, but that Trump "wants this done as quickly as possible".

President Trump canceled the TPP, a 12-nation trade agreement promoted by President Obama, amid complaints from organized labor that the pact would endanger USA manufacturing jobs.

NAFTA is a multi-layer free trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico that came into effect in 1994.

A prominent critic of US trade agreement calls the administration's plans "markedly vague". "Obviously, dairy trade with Canada - where we continue to face 200%-300% tariffs and a slew of nontariff policies that distort dairy trade - is an entirely different story, and we need to address it as part of these talks".

During the required 90-day period, the USTR will consult with "Congress and American stakeholders to create an agreement that advances the interests of America's workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses", he said. "The Peterson Institute for International Economics, a pro-free trade think-tank in Washington, estimates that the USA loses about 203,000 jobs and gains 188,000 annually" on account of two-way trade with Mexico".

Loewer said any change to NAFTA could significantly affect Louisiana's rice industry. The deal underpins more than $1 trillion of trilateral trade. Campaigning past year, Trump vowed to renegotiate NAFTA and pull out of it he couldn't get a better deal.

Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray said today that the country will not accept taxes or quotas in a renegotiated NAFTA, Reuters reports.

"The letter to Congress has a more conciliatory tone", said Gabriela Cuevas, the head of Mexico's Senate foreign relations committee and a member of the opposition National Action Party. But so did America's trade deficit with Mexico.

But U.S. and other companies have built complicated supply chains that span the U.S. -Mexico border.

"As modernization of NAFTA is negotiated, it is critical to preserve the considerable gains that have been achieved for USA food and agriculture. For years, politicians have called for the renegotiation of this agreement, but President Trump is the first to follow through with that promise", Lighthizer said in the release. Its mission is to enhance US global competitiveness and assist the USA industry to increase its global dairy ingredient sales and exports of USA dairy products. The administration will measure success in terms of its ability to stop US companies from building plants in Mexico, and reducing the $62-billion deficit with that nation, he said.

Canada expressed support for NAFTA and said it is already prepared to negotiate. The administration will need to rally lawmakers behind its negotiating position, a hard task in a polarized political environment.

Vanessa Coleman

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