Grain groups argue against NAFTA re-negotiation

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) are urging the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) against agreeing to a re-negotiation of Mexico’s commitments for white corn under the North American Free Trade Agreement. (NAFTA).

As part of the National Farm Accord signed by President Vicente Fox on April 28, it is reported the Mexican government will review the current NAFTA provisions for white corn and dry beans. The review will assess mechanisms that may be applied to manage imports of those commodities as tariffs are eliminated under the NAFTA.

"Mexico is the second largest market for corn growers in the United States," said NCGA President Fred Yoder. "Corn exports from the United States have doubled since enactment of NAFTA and we should build upon these accomplishments rather than retreat from trade liberalization."

"We believe re-negotiation would be unwise and unproductive for both countries," said USGC Chairman Don Jacoby. "NAFTA is a working agreement that provides benefits to both countries.

Mexican farmers have been publicly critical in recent months of NAFTA agriculture provisions and have erected new trade barriers due to tariff reductions that occurred in January. In a recent report issued by the USTR, the United States pledged to cooperate with Mexico to resolve the trade barriers, but warned, "the United States will not agree to alter or re-negotiate long-settled provisions."

"With elections for the Mexican Congress approaching, it is natural that domestic pressures from the agriculture industry have an affect on politicians," continued Jacoby. "It would be unwise for the United States to succumb to cross border rhetoric that could harm corn and livestock producers in both countries."

"This is definitely not the time to start re-negotiating the corn provisions of NAFTA, especially since the Mexican government currently discriminates against the entry of U.S. high fructose corn syrup into its country." Concluded Yoder. "Corn growers will continue to work with the USTR, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Congress to resolve trade differences with Mexico, but negotiating a safeguard for bulk corn at this time is a non-starter."

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