Editor’s note: Agriculture organizations have been following trade negotiations and pressing lawmakers for action. Here are various groups’ reaction to recent trade news.

Groups call for action on USMCA

A diverse, ad hoc coalition of more than 45 groups representing many sectors of the U.S. economy joined the National Pork Producers Council and other ag groups Jan. 23 in calling for an end to U.S. tariffs on Canadian and Mexican aluminum and steel imports so that America ca take advantage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

The Trump administration on June 1, 2018, imposed a 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent duty on aluminum imports from Canada and Mexico. Both countries subsequently retaliated against a host of U.S. products.

“The metals tariffs are undermining the ability of the private sector to lobby for passage of the USMCA deal,” NPPC President Jim Heimerl, a pork producer from Ohio, said in a news release. “For many sectors, the duties are a hair-on-fire issue that is draining resources that otherwise would be focused on passage of the USMCA.”

Farmers and food companies have been particularly hard hit by the Canadian and Mexican retaliation. Mexico’s 20 percent punitive tariff on U.S. pork, for example, has inflicted severe financial harm on America’s pork producers. According to Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes, the Mexican tariff is costing producers $12 per animal, meaning industry wide losses of $1.5 billion annually.

The metals tariffs also are hurting U.S. manufacturers that depend on steel and aluminum imports, increasing costs for American industrial and consumer goods.

The letter, addressed to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, stated:

“The undersigned organizations, in full recognition of the importance of U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) ratification to the economic interests of all three countries, wish to underscore the importance of lifting tariffs on steel and aluminum imports and the removal of all retaliatory tariffs on trade among the parties.

“For many farmers, ranchers and manufacturers, the damage from the reciprocal trade actions in the steel dispute far outweighs any benefit that may accrue to them from the USMCA. The continued application of metal tariffs means ongoing economic hardship for U.S. companies that depend on imported steel and aluminum, but that are not exempted from these tariffs.

“Producers of agricultural and manufactured products that are highly dependent on the Canadian and Mexican markets are also suffering serious financial losses. We urge you to take all necessary steps to resolve this matter so that zero-tariff North American trade can resume, and we can turn our attention to working with you to gain prompt Congressional approval of the USMCA.”

NCGA recognizes NAFTA benefits

By the National Corn Growers Association

The National Corn Growers Association is committed to creating new market opportunities for U.S. corn. This includes expanding market access for U.S. corn around the globe and securing our most important markets by injecting certainty back into our relationships with Mexico and Canada.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been an unequivocal success for American corn farmers. Since 1994, U.S. corn exports to these regional partners have increased 300 percent and Mexico is now the top export destination for U.S. corn.

Corn exports to Mexico were up nearly 13 percent for 2017/2018 from the previous year, reaching a record high of 15.7 million tons or 618 million bushels.

In 2016 alone, more than 17.3 million metric tons of corn and corn co-products were exported to Mexico and Canada, valued at $3.2 billion. These exports produced $4.1 billion in economic activity as well as supported 25,000 jobs and 300,000 farms.

Now, as Congress looks to consider the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, it is imperative the Administration not withdraw from NAFTA before a new agreement is ratified. The data speaks for itself — these markets are vital to U.S. corn farmers and too important to put at risk.

EU won’t include ag in trade talks with U.S.

By the National Pork Producers Council

The National Pork Producers Council said it cannot support a trade agreement between the United States and the European Union that does not include agriculture, after the European Commission on Jan. 18 issued draft negotiating mandates to EU member states that don’t include talks on agriculture.

“We are infuriated,” said NPPC President Jim Heimerl. “The EU is one of the most protected markets in the world for a lot of agricultural products, including pork. We are pleased that the Trump administration has been resolute in its demand that agriculture be included in the talks.”

Agriculture has been included in all U.S. free trade agreements, but agriculture often is wholly or partially excluded from EU FTAs. Indeed, many trade lawyers believe that the EU’s trade deals do not comply with World Trade Organization rules because they do not cover “substantially all trade.”

NPPC has been the leading voice among U.S. agricultural organizations on insisting that a trade deal between the United States and the EU include agriculture and that it address the EU’s restrictive tariff and non-tariff barriers to U.S. farm products. The organization and 52 other food and farm groups in mid-December sent a letter to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, urging the Trump administration “to continue stressing to [the EU] that only a truly comprehensive agreement will be acceptable to the Administration and, ultimately, to the U.S. Congress.”

EU tariff and non-tariff barriers on pork limited U.S. pork exports to the second largest pork-consuming market in the world to less than 4,000 metric tons in 2017. The United States sends more pork to countries such as Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Singapore than it does to the EU. ... Because of the EU’s barriers, the United States had a trade deficit in food and agricultural goods of nearly $11 billion last year. That deficit was just $1.8 billion in 2000.

“If the EU wants to conclude a trade deal that will be approved by the U.S. Congress, it needs to negotiate on agriculture,” Heimerl said.

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