August 31, 2017

Perdue Touts NAFTA Merits to Trump

 |  By: Bloomberg News

Secretary Sonny Perdue said Wednesday he’s been trying to convince the Trump administration the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is “good for U.S. agriculture.” The trade deal just has some “rough edges” that need to be smoothed for improvement, he said during a presentation at an industry event in Decatur, Illinois.

The U.S. is one of the world’s biggest agricultural exporters, and Canada and Mexico are major buyers. Tearing up the 23-year-old deal between the neighboring countries could put Trump at odds with his rural base, with farmers and ranchers dependent on trade for their livelihood. Companies including Cargill Inc. and Tyson Foods Inc., the largest U.S. meat company, have called on the administration to protect agriculture during the negotiations. Dairy organizations, including the U.S. Dairy Export Council, National Milk Producers Federation, International Dairy Foods Association and others have joined in as well.

“I talked to him this morning, actually,” Perdue said of his conversations with Trump. “He’s concerned about American agriculture,” but he’s also concerned about trade deficits in other parts of the economy, particularly in automobiles and manufacturing, he said.

Perdue said he hopes the administration can find a solution that “reconciles” and “resolves those issues.”

Since its adoption, NAFTA has knit the three agricultural economies more tightly, with effects ranging from cattle being raised and processed across borders to U.S. dependence on Mexican avocados for guacamole at Super Bowl parties. A second round of negotiations on the accord is scheduled for Sept. 1-5 in Mexico City.

Secretary Perdue said Wednesday the primary concerns he’s been hearing from farmers on the NAFTA talks are issues regarding labor, regulations and trade. His comments echoed similar remarks from earlier this year.