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Ross Calls Out Agriculture Groups for Vocal Opposition to NAFTA Withdrawal

Saturday, November 18, 2017

(North American Meat Institute)

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross appeared to express frustration with the agriculture industry's vocal opposition to statements by Administration officials that have signaled a potential willingness to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Speaking at the Wall Street Journal's CEO Council event in Washington DC, Ross said the agriculture industry is complicating NAFTA negotiations by "screaming and yelling in public" about the direction the Administration is taking in modernization talks. Ross also indicated the Administration intends to continue to take a "hard line" on its proposals, which include a sunset provision that would effectively terminate NAFTA after five years unless all parties agree to extend it.

Agriculture groups, including the Meat Institute, have consistently expressed concern to Congress and the Administration about the immediate, adverse economic impact of ending NAFTA. Under NAFTA, U.S. food and agricultural exports have grown by 450 percent, increasing from $11 billion in 1993 to more than $43 billion in 2016. Mexico is the third largest importer of U.S. beef and the leading destination for U.S. beef variety meat, according to USDA export data. Additionally, Mexico is the largest volume market and second largest value market for U.S. pork exports. In 2016, U.S. red meat and poultry exports to Canada and Mexico exceeded $5.3 billion, or 32.7 percent of total red meat and poultry exports.

In addition to increasing prices on consumer goods, NAFTA withdrawal would yield a net loss of 256,000 U.S. jobs, at least 50,000 of which would be in the U.S. food and agriculture industry, and a $13 billion decline in gross domestic product in the farm sector alone.

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