NPC Outlines NAFTA Priorities

Published online: Apr 14, 2017 Tom Karst
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While the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is on hold until the Senate approves a new U.S. trade representative, the National Potato Council (NPC) is giving the Trump administration recommendations to improve potato exports to Mexico and Canada.

“Improving NAFTA can benefit rural America and our nation’s economy,” John Keeling, NPC executive vice president and CEO, said in a news release. “The potato industry is strongly supportive of building on the successes we have seen over the life of NAFTA.”

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in an April 10 press briefing that the Trump administration will announce a plan for renegotiation of NAFTA after U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer is confirmed.

U.S. potato exports could grow substantially from current levels of $315 million to Canada and more than $250 million to Mexico, Keeling said in an April 10 letter  to President Donald Trump.

“The potato industry believes that potato exports to Mexico could grow to $500 million annually with full unrestricted access for all U.S. fresh and processed potatoes,” Keeling said, noting that sales to Canada would also rise.

In any revised NAFTA, Keeling said the U.S. must seek to maintain the zero-duty rate for U.S. potato exports to Mexico and Canada. If the U.S. were to withdraw from NAFTA outright, Mexican tariffs would likely rise as high as 50 to 70 percent of import value, he said in the letter.

Keeling said strong phytosanitary mandates in a renegotiated NAFTA would give opportunities to resolve current barriers that restrict the flow of U.S. fresh potatoes to MexicoU.S. potato exporters are restricted from receiving full access to Mexico for fresh potatoes due to an unscientific and inconsistent application of sanitary and phytosanitary standards, Keeling said in the letter. Likewise, anti-dumping actions against U.S. growers shipping to Canada must be based on solid economic analysis conducted by neutral third parties, Keeling said in the release.

Keeling also said the Canadian system of “ministerial exemption” restricts free commerce for potatoes based on what he called unnecessary requirements to demonstrate a shortage of domestic product before U.S. product is allowed to enter any province.

“The potato industry stands ready to work with the administration and Congress in pursuing these improvements for NAFTA, along with any future bilateral or multi-lateral agreements that may benefit our producers,” Keeling said in the release.


Source: The Packer