What the Future of NAFTA Holds for Agriculture
Within the U.S. agricultural industry, NAFTA has been seen as a net positive, and groups have expressed concern with President Donald Trump’s intent to renegotiate the free-trade deal. On the other side of the border, however, some Mexican officials see the potential to lift the country’s depressed agricultural market.
President Donald Trump’s attempts to shake up global trade, also seen in Congress, have led to some big questions.
But the questions differ depending on what side of the border the groups are on.
Trump’s intention to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have raised major concerns for farming and other agricultural groups in the United States.
Last month, as Trump took office, more than 130 trade groups emphasized the success they’ve seen under NAFTA in a letter to the new president [PDF]:
A key part of this success, as it is related to agricultural trade and commerce, comes from collaboration with our closest neighbors. Together Canada, Mexico and the United States make up one of the most competitive and successful economic regions in the world. The success of this trading relationship has come largely from economic cooperation, integration, and policy alignment.
But recent statements made by the president, including about Mexico’s trade deficit with the U.S., have some agricultural groups, such as the National Farmers Union, concerned that he may change the agreement dramatically, in a way that damages this long-standing structure.
“There’s been a lot of talk about the renegotiation of NAFTA, but I don’t think this is what ag had in mind,” said Barbara Patterson, NFU’s government relations director, in comments to Agri-Pulse. “On the dairy side, they thought it was about how do we open up access to markets in Canada, not potentially shutting off our southern border.”
With a significant amount of Trump’s voter support in rural areas coming from farmers, some observers have suggested that the president could lose political support by changing these agreements.
In Mexico, NAFTA Changes Could Mean Opportunity
If NAFTA does end up being changed significantly, it could prove a boon for the Mexican economy, according to some observers—an outcome that would be ironic to a degree, due to the president’s frequent criticism of the country.
Alfredo Acedo, of the National Union of Autonomous Regional and Campesino Organizations (UNORCA), which represents a number of labor unions and peasant organizations in Mexico, was particularly welcoming of such a strategy. It has long been calling for NAFTA’s agricultural elements to be canceled because of the agreement’s negative impacts on the local economy.
“Of course, we understand that what Trump wants has nothing to do with the interests of Mexican peasants,” Acedo told Al Jazeera. “We know he’s just trying to get even better conditions for his own country, for its producers, for the corporations, which, in this case, are the primary beneficiaries. But the very fact that the treaty is being reopened presents an opportunity for us to make demands, to unify, to push harder to get back what we had before 1994.”
The Autonomous University of Chapingo (UACh), which has been active in agricultural research targeting the domestic market, has pledged to work with Trump on the issue.
“[The UACh] is ready to participate in the renegotiation of NAFTA, in the creation of public policies that favor agriculture and the creation of local and regional food markets, bypassing the middleman and lowering prices,” said Sergio Barrales Domínguez, the university’s president, in comments to Mexico News Daily.