By Max Fisher, Director of Economics and Government Relations
NGFA and the North American Export Grain Association (NAEGA) submitted joint statements this week regarding the performance of free trade agreements and the modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
In response to a solicitation for comments by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and the U.S. Department of Commerce regarding the administration’s assessment of free trade agreements and the nation’s trade relations with other members of the World Trade Organization, the NGFA and NAEGA identified opportunities to update and modernize U.S. free trade agreements and highlighted the urgency in initiating trade negotiations with key Asia-Pacific markets.
Withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement “has created a void that foreign export competitors are aggressively exploiting to the detriment of U.S. agricultural exports and our nation’s economy,” stated the NGFA and NAEGA.
The two groups said key areas that would preserve and enhance U.S. agricultural competitiveness and facilitate trade include not only expanded market access and tariff concessions, but also:
- Improved regulatory consistency and cooperation;
- Removal of non-tariff barriers that lack scientific merit;
- Enabling innovation of information technologies;
- Recognizing comparable regulatory systems for assessing the safety of plant breeding technologies;
- Developing a consistent approach for managing low-level presence (LLP) of biotechnology-enhanced products that have undergone a safety assessment and are approved for use in a third country, but not yet approved for import by a U.S. free trade agreement-member country; and
- Ensuring safe and orderly passage for rail and truck freight transportation.
The organizations also noted their concern about the trading relationship between the United States and the European Union (EU), given the “many unscientifically based and unjustified barriers” erected by the EU to block U.S. grain and other agricultural products from entering its market. “NGFA and NAEGA urge the administration to work with the European Union to remove the barriers and promote a better trading relationship,” the comments stated.
In separate comments to Global Affairs Canada, the NGFA and NAEGA asked that NAFTA partners work together to address certain impediments to trade, including:
- Import checks on cross-border shipments of individual containers;
- Sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS)-based import bans and restrictions that do not conform to World Trade Organization standards; and
- The lack of transparency provisions for measures that restrict movement of agricultural products based on SPS and technical barrier to trade grounds.
“The NAFTA agreement should support and encourage industry-based efforts to facilitate trade and promote regulatory cooperation and compliance,” the organizations noted, after listing several priorities for modernizing NAFTA.
As Canada begins work with its partners in the United States and Mexico to modernize the NAFTA agreement, the NGFA and NAEGA asked that they first recognize the broad-based benefits NAFTA has had for the agricultural industries in North America, and to “endeavor to ‘do no harm’ during negotiations by preserving all current market access gains for U.S. and Canadian companies and consumers.”