Iowa ag groups weigh in on NAFTA renegotiation talks

Iowa agricultural groups are weighing in on NAFTA negotiation talks.

The Trump Administration has notified Congress of its plans to start the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico this August.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer sent formal letters to congressional leadership saying the administration will "consult closely with Congress in developing our negotiating positions to ensure they are consistent with Congressional priorities."

Also in the letter, Lighthizer said "our aim is that NAFTA be modernized to include new provisions to address intellectual property rights, regulatory practices, state-owned enterprises, services, customs procedures, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, labor, environment and small and medium enterprises."

Iowa Farm Bureau President Craig Hill is optimistic about the opportunity to have these conversations.

"This needs to be a trilateral type of a negotiation, where everybody comes to the table," Hill said.

Because NAFTA was last negotiated more than 20 years ago, Hill says it could be an chance to review what's worked and look ahead.

"We want to value the agreements that were already made and live up to those conditions," Hill said of the trade relationships with Canada and Mexico. "But if we need to modernize NAFTA, take another look, a fresh look over time with measured activity, I think that's something that we could welcome and support and hopefully agriculture is part of that conversation."

Mexico is the largest buyer of U.S. Corn. Iowa Farm Promotion Board vice president Duane Aistrope, who farms in Fremont County, recently met with the Mexican delegation in Nebraska.

"We need them, they need us," Aistrope said. "We're doing everything we can to help in renegotiating NAFTA."

Aaron Lehman, President of the Iowa Farmers Union, said some trade parameters under NAFTA from its negotiations 25 years ago "were not good for family farmers."

"The way trade disputes are settled gave a tremendous amount of power to corporations involved in trade," he said.

Lehman said "family farmers are just not able to have an even footing" when handling trade disputes.

Lehman said when reworking the NAFTA framework, their group hopes another issue addressed is currency and price manipulation.

"Farmers have very little control in trade negotiations or trade disputes when another country simply changes their currency and their products instantly become less expensive," he said. "

Senator Chuck Grassley praised President Trump for wanting to take a closer look at trade deals, but also had a warning.

"Iowa is the nation’s leading producer of eggs, pork, soybeans and corn and has benefited greatly from free and fair trade with Canada and Mexico," he said in a statement. "The Administration should soundly reject any renegotiation that would harm U.S. agriculture, a notable bright spot in the economy of Rural America."

Negotiations will begin no earlier than August 16 and the USTR will post a notice requesting public input on content for negotiations.

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