Representatives of state and provincial agricultural directors from the U.S., Mexico and Canada sign a statement Nov. 14, 2019, in Winnipeg, Canada, supporting ratification of a new trade agreement between the three countries. From left, Rodolfo Huipe of the Mexican association of agriculture secretaries, Manitoba Minister of Agriculture Blaine Pedersen, Mexican Undersecretary of Agriculture Miguel Garcia Widner and North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring. President Donald Trump signed into law the new North American trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, Wednesday, Jan. 29.

State and provincial agriculture directors from the U.S., Canada and Mexico affirmed their support last week for the new North American trade deal.

Meeting in Winnipeg, Canada, at the Tri-National Agricultural Accord, the directors issued a joint statement asking U.S. and Canadian lawmakers to ratify the agreement as soon as possible. Mexico already has approved the pact.

“I think collectively, in our countries, we do have the ability to help move the ball, particularly when we’re on the same page,” said Washington Agriculture Director Derek Sandison, who attended the annual conference.

The Trump administration finished negotiating the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement almost 14 months ago. The nonpartisan U.S. International Trade Commission estimates the deal will increase global U.S. farm exports by 1.1%, or $2.2 billion a year.

Much of the gain would come from higher exports of dairy and poultry products to Canada. Quotas would be lifted, but not eliminated, before tariffs that range from 200% to 300% took effect.

The USMCA also would set up new processes for resolving sanitary and phytosanitary issues, and approving biotechnology.

The USMCA would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement. Labor and environmental groups have criticized the new deal.

While the agriculture directors were meeting in Canada, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said an agreement among House Democrats that would allow for a ratification vote was “imminent.”

Meanwhile, NAFTA remains in force.

“There would be much more nervousness about (ratification) if there were no underlying agreement already in place,” Sandison said.

“We’re anticipating an incremental increase (in exports). NAFTA did the heavy lifting,” he said. “What Washington agriculture is interested in is, let’s not undo a good thing.”

Although the agreement remains unratified by the U.S., it’s already helped relations with Mexico, Sandison said.

Earlier this month, Sandison participated in a trade mission to Mexico led by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

Sandison was on a trade mission to Mexico in May 2017 on the day that the Trump administration formerly demanded to renegotiate NAFTA. The Trump administration had already withdrew the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

”You could sense some hostility and annoyance,” Sandison said.

The negotiations leading to USMCA seem to have eased the tensions, he said. “There was a much better atmosphere than there was during the 2017 trade mission.”

The joint statement from the state and provincial directors acknowledged Mexico’s leadership in embracing NAFTA’s successor.

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