By Sarah Gonzalez, Director of Communications and Digital Media
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue led a trade mission to Mexico from Nov. 6-8 “to forge new opportunities with U.S. agriculture’s largest bilateral trading partner and second-largest export market,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced.
Ted McKinney, USDA’s under secretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs, and several state departments of agriculture officials joined Perdue on the trip. During a call with media on Nov. 7, Perdue said Mexican officials want Congress to approve the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) as soon as possible. “They have done their work, as you know, and they are anxious that we complete our task,” Perdue said.
Meanwhile, House lawmakers went north to visit with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about USMCA earlier this week. House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., and a bipartisan group of lawmakers told Trudeau on Nov. 6 that USMCA negotiations between Congress and the White House nearly are complete and emphasized that the agreement must include strong enforcement of labor standards.
“I particularly stressed the importance of meaningful enforcement mechanisms that ensure the protection of workers in all three nations and of our shared environment,” Neal said after his meeting with Trudeau.
Lawmakers have been working with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to resolve Democrats’ concerns about labor, environment, pharmaceuticals and enforcement provisions within the USMCA. Enforcement of labor standards appears to be the final sticking point. Mexico and Canada will need to approve any changes made to USMCA before Congress ratifies it. In a related development, the NGFA learned from Mexican grain industry representatives that they had been briefed by the Mexican government on the status of the labor enforcement-related negotiations, and indicated Mexico appears receptive to changes to USMCA on potential changes to those provisions. Once USMCA enacting legislation is submitted, it triggers a 90-day timeline for Congress to vote on the accord, although House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has the authority to modify the deadline if she wishes to do so.
Advocate: NGFA members still can send emails, phone calls and tweets to lawmakers urging support of the USMCA trade agreement, which will preserve or expand upon critical market access for U.S. agricultural products in the North American market. NGFA members have noted in their messages that prompt ratification of USMCA is essential to securing much-needed trade agreements with other major U.S. food and ag markets, including Japan and other Pacific Rim countries.