( File photo )

The U.S. on Nov. 30 joined Canada and Mexico to sign the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement, a new trade agreement that will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.

President Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signed the new U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement in Argentina at the G-20 Summit.

While improving access for U.S. dairy products in Canada, the new deal doesn’t change much for fruits and vegetables.

Nearly all fresh produce tariffs will remain at zero under the USMCA, the same as the NAFTA agreement.

“We’re pleased to see that it was signed by all three countries,” said Richard Owen, vice president of global business development at the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association. “Everyone was looking forward to (having) NAFTA 2.0 in place.”

Though no specific timeline has been put forward yet, Owen said the U.S. Congress will vote on the agreement after the first of the year in an up or down vote. 

Owen said the agreement brings stability to the fresh produce markets and recognizes the importance of the supply chain connecting all three countries.

American Farm Bureau Federation president Zippy Duvall said in a statement that the agreement will continue the progress American agriculture has made since the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect in 1994. 

“Agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico increased from $8.9 billion to $39 billion under NAFTA,” Duvall said in the release. “That boost provided important markets for farmers and ranchers whose productivity has only grown since the agreement was signed. In every way, this new agreement is just as good, if not better than, the one that came before.”
However, Duvall said growers still face retaliatory tariffs over steel and aluminum disputes with Mexico, Canada, and other trading partners. 

“We urge the administration to redouble its efforts to come to an agreement on those outstanding issues so we can regain the markets we had not long ago,” he said in the statement.

The Canadian Produce Marketing Association welcomed the signing of the agreement and urged quick ratification of the deal by all three countries.

“The USMCA will provide long-term certainty for both industry and consumers in all three countries,” CPMA president Ron Lemaire said in news release. “The USMCA will increase trade, provide business stability and bolster our North American competitiveness for generations to come.”

Lemaire said CPMA was pleased with many elements found in the new USMCA such as the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Chapter, the Competitiveness Chapter, the maintenance of bi-national panels to resolve disputes on duties, provisions on biotechnology, and the formalization of the bilateral Consultative Committees on Agriculture.