Year in Produce - NAFTA

As a candidate, Donald Trump called NAFTA the worst trade deal ever. But he didn’t pull the U.S. out of it as president in 2017.

Most in the produce industry say it’s been great, but there are some grower-shippers in the Southeast who say it’s led to unfair foreign competition.

Negotiations will continue in 2018 and likely be a bigger story next year, regardless of the outcome.


Nov. 15 – Ag leaders warn administration not to pull out of NAFTA

By Tom Karst

U.S. agricultural groups are stepping up their efforts to preserve the benefits of North America’s trilateral trade deal.

With hopes to conclude the pact by next spring, Mexico City is the host of the new Nov. 17-21 round of talks by the U.S., Canada and Mexico to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Mexico and Canada have pushed back against the U.S. proposal for a 5-year sunset for the reworked trade deal, and U.S. proposals on dairy and seasonal trade protection for perishable producers also have met resistance.


Oct. 30 – Produce coalition seeks to rally support for NAFTA

By Ashley Nickle

NEW ORLEANS — Speakers at a Produce Coalition for NAFTA event urged industry members Oct. 20 to speak up in support of the trade agreement and to communicate its importance to those around them, hoping the message will reach consumers.

Industry heavyweights Mission Produce, Driscoll’s and The Wonderful Co. were among companies represented at the coalition event at Fresh Summit. The group formed in late August as a way for those organizations and others to voice their views on the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Unlike some growers in the Southeast, who have advocated for a seasonal produce protection provision, coalition members like the current deal and oppose the seasonal provision, arguing that it limits trade opportunities and that it could lead to retaliation.


Aug. 14 – Trump trade goals include new anti-dumping tool

By Tom Karst

Southeast U.S. growers want to build a wall against cheap Mexican produce imports.

And, at the start of renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, they have the ear of the Trump administration.

One of the bullet points in the U.S. Trade Representative’s objectives for NAFTA renegotiation is “seek a separate domestic industry provision for perishable and seasonal products in anti-dumping and countervailing duty proceedings.”

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has previously worked on deals to protect the U.S. steel industry, said Gary Hufbauer, Reginald Jones Senior Fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Peterson Institute for International Economics.  

That, combined with the protectionist slant of the Trump administration, could make the new anti-dumping tool a real possibility, Hufbauer said.


May 1 – Opinion: Trump’s strategy will bring better deal for NAFTA

By Greg Johnson

AUSTIN, Texas — It’s hard to think clearly in today’s political climate.

People who hate President Trump think he’s the next Adolph Hitler, and his supporters think it’s OK to use “alternative facts.”

Perhaps that’s why it took a Canadian to say the most rational thing in the Viva Fresh 2017 education session on NAFTA April 21.

Ron Lemaire, president of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, said Trump tests the political waters with his statements (and tweets), which is a brilliant strategy because he can gauge how people react.

Having watched the Trump campaign and his early presidency, I can’t agree more.

Take NAFTA for instance.  

During the campaign, Trump called it the worst trade deal ever for American workers and said he’d pull the U.S. from it.

Since being president, he continued to say he planned to pull the U.S. from the agreement.

But on April 27, after talking to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, and hearing from countless Americans, Trump said he would not withdraw the U.S. but rather renegotiate the deal.


April 26 – Opinion: Shooting war, trade war or inspired leadership? Trump keeps us guessing

By Tom Karst

I’m sure that President Donald Trump doesn’t want a trade war, and he would abhor a shooting war even more.

But in the coin of political gamesmanship, he does appear more than willing to take the U.S to the brink.

Is Trump crazy like a fox or the alternative?

My most recent impression of Trump’s aggressive posturing comes from a report this morning in Politico that Trump is considering an executive order withdrawing the U.S. from North American Free Trade Agreement.

With the backdrop of tension between the U.S and its neighbor to the south because of the border wall and its neighbor to the north because of a new U.S. tariff for Canadian softwood lumber and Trump’s criticism of Canadian dairy policy, the president believes he can extract better deals with both countries if the U.S. pulls out of the agreement.

I doubt that sentiment is shared by most produce traders and industry association leaders.

Such a move  — however long it would take to fully execute — would introduce too much uncertainty to the produce business world. A media report in January said the implementation legislation for NAFTA allows for pre-1994 tariffs to be reintroduced if the U.S. withdraws from the agreement.

That sounds like a recipe for chaos.