How a renegotiated NAFTA would affect the produce industries in the three countries is unknown.
U.S. tree fruit exporters hope to preserve and extend their substantial export gains in Mexico since the start of NAFTA in 1994. Florida and Southeast growers, in contrast, have complained that NAFTA has led to cheap Mexican imports and has hurt them severely. Those growers want new anti-dumping protections for seasonal/perishable crop producers, and the Trump administration included that domestic protection tool as part of their original NAFTA goals.
“We are guardedly optimistic to hear U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer acknowledge that, despite what he and the president believe about manufacturing, the agriculture sector has benefited greatly from NAFTA,” Jim Bair, president and CEO of the U.S. Apple Association, said in an e-mail Aug. 21.
Bair said the U.S. Apple Crop Outlook and Marketing Conference in Chicago, Aug. 24-25, will take a close look at the process, with top diplomats from Mexico and the U.S. to speak on the subject.
Reports indicate very little relating to agriculture provisions of NAFTA was discussed during the opening round of discussions, said Richard Owen, Produce Marketing Association’s vice president of global business development. The U.S. did not put forward any proposals forward about seasonal perishable trade protections in the first round of talks, he said.
Mike Stuart, president of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, said the inclusion of seasonal/perishable trade protection in the reworked NAFTA is important to Florida growers.
“The bottom line is that no one should fear it unless they are dumping into an individual market,” Stuart said. Victims of unfair trade practices should have access to trade remedies, he said.
Talks will reconvene Sept. 1-5 in Mexico.
Negotiations will move to Canada in late September and return to the U.S. in late October. Additional rounds are in planning stage through the end of the year, according to the statement.