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Trade agreements can be bipartisan 

By Rep. Billy Long

Kansas City, Missouri, native David Dreier represented California in Congress from 1981-2013. On my second day in Congress he said he had learned of my strong stance as a free trader. He then asked if I would serve on a trade working group he had formed to get the Colombia, South Korea and Panama trade agreements passed, which were stalled in Congress. Although I thought it was an effort in futility, I accepted. I was pleasantly surprised how fast we got them done.  A representative for President Obama came over to the U.S. Capitol for a bipartisan meeting, and once we ascertained we weren’t far apart, we sent him back to the White House to report to the president. Miraculously, we ended a four-year drought in forming new trade partnerships.

Congressman Billy Long (R)

During his first campaign, President Trump signaled his intent to renegotiate the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico in order to improve the deal for American workers. As president, he and his administration have been committed in following through on the renegotiation, and have indicated that if the trading partners refuse to give American workers a fair deal, the president will notify the partners of the United States’ intent to withdraw from NAFTA.

Agriculture is recognized as Missouri’s number one industry and the farmers in my district have delivered a loud and clear message, “Save NAFTA. Don’t kill it!” Missouri has significantly benefitted from the implementation of NAFTA. Admittedly, the nearly two-decade-old agreement may need some updates and modernization, but the benefits to our economy are undeniable. The ability for our farmers and ranchers to do business with Canada and Mexico, without tariffs, ensures stability for our numerous agriculture sectors.

For corn alone, our state exported $347 million from the 2016 harvest, more than double the amount exported in 2000. Nationwide, $3.2 billion in corn was sold to Mexico and Canada last year.  If NAFTA were to be eliminated, this would lead to a decrease of 150 million bushels being produced annually, with a value of approximately $800 million.

Cattlemen would be adversely affected by changes to NAFTA. In 2016, beef exports amounted to $1.7 billion nationally with nearly $155 million coming from Missouri. Without free trade provided by NAFTA, there would be a tariff of nearly 25 percent applied to sales to Mexico.  With tariffs that high, profitable trade will become nearly impossible. The resulting decrease in beef production will no doubt lead to fewer jobs in the beef industry plus lower returns for ranchers and packers.

Another agriculture sector that will suffer greatly, is dairy farmers. Over $1 billion worth of U.S. dairy products are shipped to Mexico annually.  If “Most Favored Nation” practices were eliminated with Mexico because of U.S. withdrawal from NAFTA, this would mean tariffs ranging from 20 to 60 percent on dairy products. These market changes would be untimely for American dairy producers as Mexico is preparing to finalize trade negotiations with the European Union, which is the world’s largest dairy exporter.

Missouri’s economy is directly connected to the success of the agriculture industry.  With NAFTA, exports of Missouri agriculture products have risen from $1.3 million in 2000 to over $3.6 million in 2016.  Missouri has 12 commodity categories where the state is a top 10 producer.  With such a large dependence upon the success of agriculture, the possible withdrawal of the U.S. from NAFTA should be high on the list of concerns for all Missourians.

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