Mary A. Marchant indicated recently at Choices Online that, "International trade deficits have recently been reputed as 'bad' for the economy; however, agriculture has posted a trade surplus since 1959. For U.S. agriculture, trade represents 20% of farmers’ income on average, and more for specific commodities—70% for cotton and tree nuts; 50% for wheat, rice, and soybeans: and almost 20% for meat and dairy products. Thus, tossing trade would be comparable to U.S. farmers destroying 20% of their yields. China, which has advanced to become the United States’ largest agricultural export market in an unprecedented time frame, plays a key role in the economic wellbeing of U.S. agriculture."
Shawn Donnan and Jude Webber reported on Thursday at The Financial Times Online that, “Donald Trump has fired the starting gun on renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, with his administration notifying Congress on Thursday that it planned to begin formal talks as soon as August.
“The move came in a letter to congressional leaders from Robert Lighthizer, the new US trade representative, giving Congress the required 90-day notification of new trade talks. It also came just three weeks after Mr Trump abruptly reversed a plan to withdraw from the 23-year-old trade agreement that now underpins the North American supply chains of myriad multinational companies.
Mr Lighthizer said the US hoped to wrap up the negotiations by the end of this year. But he and other administration officials also signalled that Washington would be seeking fundamental changes in the relationships with Canada and Mexico.
William Mauldin reported on Thursday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “The negotiations stand to put President Donald Trump into a politically tight spot at a time when the current political turmoil already threatens to hold up parts of his agenda.
“While both sides concede Nafta needs updating, the congressional Republicans most likely to support a final deal would rather see a tweaking, since a significant overhaul or major new provisions could end up eroding the benefits companies and farmers get from reliable, duty-free exports to Canadian and Mexican markets.”
Washington Post writer Ana Swanson reported on Thursday that, “Lighthizer, who is the administration’s main trade negotiator and whose confirmation process dragged on until last week, said that the pact had been successful for some industries, such as agriculture, but that for others, such as manufacturing, it had not.
“‘We should build on what has worked in NAFTA but change and improve what has not,’ he said.”
And Don Lee reported in Friday’s Los Angeles Times that, “Canada and Mexico are the United States’ top trading partners after China. Two-way trade in goods and services between the U.S. and Canada has nearly tripled since NAFTA took effect, and U.S. trade with Mexico has jumped more than six-fold since then. Last year the U.S. had a $62.7 billion trade deficit with Mexico and a $8 billion surplus with Canada.”
Associated Press writer Paul Wiseman reported on Friday that, “A sizable majority of rural Americans backed Donald Trump’s presidential bid, drawn to his calls to slash environmental rules, strengthen law enforcement and replace the federal health care law.
“But many farmers are nervous about another plank in Trump’s agenda: His vow to overhaul U.S. trade policy, including his intent announced Thursday to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.”
(For more background, see this FarmPolicyNews update from January: “‘Rural Voters May Not Align with ‘Farm’ Voters on Trade Issues“).
The AP article stated that:
But NAFTA and other deals have been good for American farmers, who stand to lose if Trump ditches the pact or ignites a trade war. The United States has enjoyed a trade surplus in farm products since at least 1967, government data show. Last year, farm exports exceeded imports by $20.5 billion.