As President Donald Trump dangles steel and aluminum tariffs as a bargaining chip for a quick deal with Canada and Mexico, more than 100 agriculturalists, businesses, and organizations have joined a coalition fighting to preserve and modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“We have large trade deficits with Mexico and Canada. NAFTA, which is under renegotiation right now, has been a bad deal for U.S.A. Massive relocation of companies & jobs. Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum will only come off if a new & fair NAFTA agreement is signed,” Trump tweeted on Monday morning.
He added, “Also, Canada must … treat our farmers much better. Highly restrictive. Mexico must do much more on stopping drugs from pouring into the U.S. They have not done what needs to be done. Millions of people addicted and dying.”
Robert Lighthizer, the top negotiator for NAFTA, said the U.S. formally offered to exclude Canada and Mexico from the tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on imported aluminum if the countries can work out a NAFTA deal.
“The president’s view was that it makes sense that if we get a successful agreement, to have them be excluded,” Lighthizer told reporters in Mexico City following the seventh round of Nafta talks. “It’s an incentive to get a deal.”
With Mexico’s presidential election, several providences in Canada having elections, and U.S. midterm elections all this year, it makes sense for the U.S. to want the negotiations that began last year to hurry along.
NAFTA is an incredibly vital part of Missouri’s economy, with agricultural being the number one industry in the state. As such, many in the Show-Me State have joined Americans For Farmers & Families to fight for preserving and modernizing NAFTA.
Members from the state include Missouri Grocers Association, Missouri Retailers Association, Missouri Agribusiness Association, Kansas City Southern, St. Louis Agribusiness Club, AgXplore, American Petroleum Institute – Missouri, Burns and McDonnell, Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, Missouri Chamber of Commerce, Missouri Corn Growers, Missouri Dairy Association, Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri Petroleum Council, Missouri Pork Association, Missouri Soybean Association, Missouri Rice Research and Merchandising Council, and Upper Mississippi, Illinois and Missouri Rivers Association.
“While politicians and pundits wage debate, the families and workers who rely on those deals often go unrecognized as the attention shifts to deep-pocketed corporations and special interest groups,” Gary Reichel, who runs a cattle operation in Missouri, writes in an editorial. “This is the case for NAFTA. While it’s true this is a very important piece of international trade policy, it is equally true that NAFTA is a huge help for working men and women across the country and right here in Missouri. That is a fact we should not forget.”
In 2016, Missouri’s total food and agricultural exports totaled $2.2 billion with $1.4 billion going to NAFTA partners, with top exports including soybean, corn, rice, and meat such as beef and pork. Exports to free trade agreement markets accounted for 64 percent of all Missouri exports, totaling $8.9 billion.
“Agriculture is a shining star when it comes to American trade and that shouldn’t be forgotten” explained Shane Kinne, Missouri Corn Growers Association director of public policy.
“Farm Belt voters supported President Trump by a three-to-one margin in the last election and they are counting on him to improve NAFTA in the modernization negotiations,” said John Bode, president and CEO of the Corn Refiners Association and a member of AFF’s leadership committee. “Truth be told, some farmers are still farming today only because of NAFTA. It must be modernized, but preserved. With several of President Trump’s cabinet members having expressed their support for updating the agreement, we are confident the President will use his considerable experience as a negotiator to make NAFTA better.”
“We have been active participants in this discussion and look forward to continuing to work with the administration and leaders in Congress to ensure the growers, producers, processors, transporters, retailers and consumers we represent have their voices heard,” added Chris Novak, CEO of the National Corn Growers Association and another member of AFF’s leadership committee. “This issue is simply too important for us to sit on the sidelines.”
Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at firstname.lastname@example.org.