Business, Agriculture Associations Warn Against Leaving NAFTA

Agricultural concerns have become a key aspect of the debate over the North American Free Trade Agreement, which the president has threatened to leave. A broad array of business groups made the case for preserving NAFTA on a recent trip to Capitol Hill.

It was hard for members of Congress to ignore the debate over the North American Free Trade Agreement last week.

As negotiators from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico began a new round of talks on NAFTA, numerous groups—largely from the business and agricultural sectors—took to Capitol Hill to press members of Congress to preserve the agreement. President Donald Trump has threatened to pull the U.S. out of NAFTA and potentially seek separate trade deals with Canada and Mexico.

In a blog post on its website last week, the Business Roundtable warned that the stakes are high.

“While we strongly support President Trump’s goals of stronger economic growth and job creation and making American companies more globally competitive through U.S. tax and regulatory reform, withdrawing from or weakening trade agreements would undermine the administration’s efforts to achieve these goals,” wrote Business Roundtable President and CEO Joshua Bolten.

To bring that message home, the group joined with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Foreign Trade Council, the Coalition of Services Industries, the American Farm Bureau, and the National Pork Producers Council in a wide-reaching lobbying push last Wednesday. The effort, which occurred as Trump was meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, targeted more than 250 House members, according to Politico.

Agricultural groups have been vocal as well. For example, the National Pork Producers Council has strongly opposed any effort to change the zero-tariff requirement for American pork, which has enabled the industry to export roughly a quarter of its total output this year.

In comments to Farmscape, NPPC Senior Director of Public Relations Jim Monroe noted that Mexico and Canada represent two of the industry’s five largest export markets and said that exports alone support more than 16,000 U.S. jobs.

NAFTA withdrawal “would have a severely negative impact on the U.S. pork industry,” Monroe warned. “It would also hurt our economy in other ways.”

The NAFTA negotiations have encouraged the creation of at least one advocacy group, Farmers for Free Trade, which counts two former senators—Max Baucus (D-MT) and Richard Lugar (R-IN)—as its leading voices.

The group, which has won the support of the American Farm Bureau Federation, aims to draw grassroots attention to the importance of free trade to farmers and other agriculture-related workers.

“We need to remind rural communities that their livelihoods depend on global supply chains,” Baucus said at a press conference covered by Farm Futures last week. “And not just farmers and ranchers, also the secondary jobs: the grain elevator operator, the railroad worker, the truck driver, and port operators. We aim to educate and mobilize so the voices of these Americans who depend on trade are heard.”

(ronniechua/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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