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NAFTA boosts Oregon ag exports

By Eric Mortenson

Capital Press

Oregon farm exports to Mexico and Canada have soared since NAFTA took effect, the state's Department of Agriculture reports.

The North American Free Trade Agreement has been a good deal — at least for Oregon farmers, the state’s Department of Agriculture reports.

The value of agricultural and livestock products exported to Mexico has increased 1,360 percent from 1999 to 2012, and ag exports to Canada increased 145 percent during that time, according to the department.

The value of exported products tells the story. Oregon sent ag products worth $5 million to Mexico the first year after NAFTA took full effect, and that had increased to $73 million by 2012. Exports to Canada jumped from $64 million annually to $157 million by 2012. Exports of processed food to the two trading partners also increased dramatically: from $2.4 million to $7.9 million to Mexico, and jumping from $61 million in 1999 to $179 million in 2012 in Canada’s case.

The free trade agreement began removing trade restrictions, quantity restrictions and duties beginning in 1994, going into full effect in 2008. The agreement established the world’s largest free trade area, involving 450 million people and $17 trillion worth of goods and services, according to the office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

Farmers nationally have also come out ahead under NAFTA, according to the trade office. In 2010, U.S. ag exports to Canada and Mexico were $31.4 billion, while ag imports from those countries were $29.8 billion. The U.S. primarily sends meat, grain, fruit, snack food and vegetables to those nations.

Future trade prospects appear promising. In a news release, Oregon ag department trade specialist Dennis Hannapel said Mexico may be a good market for blueberries, hazelnuts and cranberries in particular. In addition, Oregon is working with Mexico to expand the geographical area where potato exports are allowed. Fresh potatoes from Oregon now are limited to within 26 kilometers of the border, about 16 miles.

Meanwhile, the three countries are in negotiations about implementing food safety standards that would be identical across the borders.



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