Both U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue emphasized that the Trump administration has no intention of jeopardizing U.S. agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico, noting they have specific marching orders to protect current market access for U.S. farm products.
“Ag is a big winner from NAFTA and a lot of these agreements. We have to maintain that position,” Lighthizer said.
While the Trump administration is interested in negotiating new bilaterals, Lighthizer acknowledged that none of the 11 remaining TPP members have come forward to say that they want a one-on-one trade agreement with the U.S. “But everybody wants to engage,” Lighthizer said after he and Perdue emerged from a closed-door meeting with House Agriculture Committee members.
Lighthizer was upbeat about the prospect of eventually negotiating one-on-one deals despite the lukewarm response to the administration’s desire to do so. “We have the biggest economy in the world. We have something we’re offering to people so I’m confident that people will want to talk about our bilateral relationship,” Lighthizer said. “We’ll have FTAs and agriculture will be front and center of every one of them, I’m confident.”
After President Donald Trump’s threats to pull out of NAFTA, Mexico started exploring other markets to buy corn and other crops from other countries, including Brazil and Argentina. House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, said he met with producers from Mexico who import US corn last week and reassured them that the relationship is still on solid ground. He also had a meeting with Mexico’s ambassador to the U.S. Geronimo Gutierrez, on Tuesday. “They all want to buy our corn,” Conaway said. “With respect to Canada and Mexico, we have a geographical advantage over anyone else in the world.”
Conaway also said he has three main messages for the Trump administration officials: Do no harm to in the NAFTA renegotiations; push aggressively to tear down Canada’s dairy trade barriers and begin negotiating bilateral deals with members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), since President Donald Trump decided to pull out of that pact.