Audio: Top NAFTA Priority for Red Meat Industry is to Preserve Full Market Access

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On Wednesday, Aug. 16, trade officials from the United States, Mexico and Canada will open their first round of meetings aimed at renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Thad Lively, U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) senior vice president for trade access, explains that U.S. beef, pork and lamb currently enjoy full access to Mexico and Canada, at zero duty and with no significant product restrictions. It is essential that this level of access is preserved, because these countries account for 40 percent of U.S. pork exports, nearly 30 percent of U.S. beef exports and more than 80 percent of U.S. lamb exports (based on January-June 2017 volumes). Maintaining reciprocal duty-free access for agricultural goods is on the list of NAFTA objectives recently published by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).

While preserving full market access is the U.S. red meat industry’s leading priority in the NAFTA negotiations, Lively notes that the agreement’s sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) chapter should be updated to reflect current scientific and technical standards. USMEF would also like to see NAFTA updated to accommodate e-commerce.


Joe Schuele: In this U.S. Meat Export Federation report, Senior Vice President for Trade Access Thad Lively discusses the NAFTA renegotiation talks, where he says the top priority for the red meat industry is to preserve duty-free, barrier-free access for U.S. products entering Canada and Mexico.

Thad Lively: NAFTA has been hugely significant for the red meat industry here in the U.S., eliminating those borders, which in effect is what NAFTA did for trade in North America. Most of us in this industry would say the way we ought to move is we go forward on trade. So it’s hard to find a lot that we can do in this NAFTA renegotiation process that would improve our situation today. Currently, we don’t face barriers at either of our borders, we’ve got good communication on virtually every aspect of meat trade, we have a very close working relationships at the commercial level and at the governmental level, so our objective with NAFTA is to stay where we are.

Joe Schuele: Even so, any agreement that’s a quarter-century old has areas that could use improvement.

Thad Lively: The NAFTA agreement itself has a section, a chapter, that’s devoted to health-related regulations and requirements that are in effect but it was written a long time ago. And thinking about how to deal with these health-related restrictions has evolved a long way since the early 90s. So that would be one area where we have asked the government to help us on, and I think they’ve heard us loud and clear on that. Another one, which is a little more for the future, is e-commerce, and as consumers in Mexico and Canada start to use e-commerce platforms to buy directly from the U.S., we don’t want to see those exports from the United States to those other two NAFTA partners facing barriers at the border.

Joe Schuele: For more information, please visit For the U.S. Meat Export Federation, I’m Joe Schuele.