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Wheat Groups in Canada, Mexico, and U.S. Ask for NAFTA Update, Not a Breakup

In a letter to leaders of the NAFTA nations, seven wheat groups that span the continent and represent a range of players, from growers to millers to bakers, said an updated NAFTA that continues duty-free agricultural trade is critical to their success. Canada and the U.S. supply more than 60% of Mexico’s wheat, and Mexico is the No. 1 market for U.S. wheat exports.

President Trump left open the possibility of U.S. withdrawal from NAFTA during an interview at the World Economic Forum, telling CNBC at one point, “I think we have a good chance [of an agreement], but we’ll see what happens,” and at another, “I may terminate NAFTA, I may not.” The Hillnewspaper said that trade ministers from Canada and Mexico were more optimistic. Talks started last August and are to conclude in March. Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said, “Today, we are in much better standing than a year ago to try to find those creative solutions that will mean a win-win-win for the three countries.”

The U.S. lists maintaining duty-free agricultural trade as its top NAFTA priority. Also high on its list is the elimination of Canada’s supply-management system for dairy, poultry, and eggs. Canadian officials say that proposal is a nonstarter. The Canadian dairy industry says it has given up enough ground in past trade deals, and it should not have to make further concessions in a new NAFTA, said Canadian Press. For their part, U.S. dairy groups say Canada has unfairly blocked imports of their products. “Dairy trade with Canada has for too long been excluded from NAFTA’s benefits,” said the National Milk Producers Federation.

“NAFTA has benefited not only wheat growers but also all our partners along the entire value chain – from farmers to consumers and everyone in between,” said Gordon Stoner, president of the National Association of Wheat Growers, a U.S. group that signed the letter to Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. “The fact that wheat producers and end users from all three countries would speak with one voice about the importance of NAFTA should speak volumes to our leaders.”

The wheat industry letter said, “The rise in demand for high-quality wheat combined with duty-free access and the convenient transportation options between all three countries relies on an integrated supply chain within the region that is only effective with NAFTA in place.”

To read the wheat letter, click here.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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