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Key Topic – NAFTA

On May 18, 2017, the Trump administration officially notified Congress of its intent to renegotiate NAFTA. A Federal Register notice was also published with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) accepting public comments on the direction, focus, and content of the NAFTA negotiations. The comment period ended June 14.

From USMEF’s standpoint, it is absolutely essential that U.S. negotiators protect the benefits that NAFTA has delivered for U.S. red meat exports and work to maintain duty-free access for these products in Mexico and Canada. The U.S. industry must be prepared to defend the favorable terms currently in place for U.S. meat and explain the importance of the Mexican and Canadian markets, which currently take about 40 percent of U.S. pork export volume and 30 percent of our beef exports. (In 2016, the combined value of those exports was $3.9 billion.) In addition, USMEF noted in its comments that NAFTA’s chapter on sanitary and phytosanitary measures should be strengthened and that the agreement should accommodate e-commerce.

UPDATE: On July 17, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) published its list of objectives for the NAFTA renegotiations. On a very positive note, topping the list of objectives for agricultural trade is to maintain existing reciprocal duty-free market access for agricultural goods. USMEF summarized the full list of published objectives in this Exporter Update. The first round of NAFTA negotiations was held Aug. 16-20 in Washington, D.C., with round two held Sept. 1-5 in Mexico City and round three Sept. 23-27 in Ottawa.

UPDATE:The fourth round of NAFTA renegotiations concluded Oct. 17. In a joint statement, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, and Mexican Secretary of the Economy Ildefonso Guajardo noted that in order to bridge “significant conceptual gaps,” the parties have agreed to a longer intersessional period before the next negotiating round, which will be held Nov. 17-21 in Mexico City. The statement adds that additional rounds will be scheduled through the first quarter of 2018.

In his own closing statement, Lighthizer expressed frustration with the lack of progress on certain NAFTA chapters, citing digital trade, telecommunications and anticorruption as examples.