Mexican trade deal encouraging, Newhouse says

SUNNYSIDE, Wash. — President Donald Trump’s announcement of a preliminary agreement to update the U.S.-Mexico portion of NAFTA is “encouraging news” for American farmers and exporters who rely on access to that market, says U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash.

“While details of a final deal remain, the movement toward zero tariffs on agricultural products, increasing transparency to reduce trade-distorting policies, and decreasing non-tariff trade barriers to ensure sanitary and phytosanitary measures are based on science will strengthen the economic relationship with our southern neighbor,” said Newhouse, who represents agriculture-heavy central Washington. He added that he looks forward to seeing similar progress with Canada so a “modernized NAFTA agreement can fairly reflect the interests of all.”

Mark Powers, president of the Northwest Horticultural Council in Yakima, could not be reached for comment. The council represents tree fruit growers and shippers in Washington, Oregon and Idaho on national and international policy issues.

The Trump administration worked on a new North American Free Trade Agreement for a year and announced a tentative replacement deal with Mexico on Aug. 26.

Mexico announced a 20 percent tariff on U.S. apples and other items on June 5 in retaliation for a 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent tariff on aluminum imported from Europe, Mexico and Canada. Trump announced the tariffs in March but exempted Europe, Mexico and Canada for two months to allow for negotiations.

Washington produces approximately 65 percent of all apples grown in the U.S. and more than 90 percent of U.S. fresh apple exports.

Mexico is the top export market for Washington apples and during the 2016-17 season Washington shipped 13.7 million, 40-pound boxes of apples to Mexico, valued at more than $215 million, according to the Washington Apple Commission.

Powers has estimated $129 million in losses in apple exports to Mexico, India and China for the 2018-2019 sales season if tariffs by all three countries hold.

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