NMPF Pushes Key Dairy Priorities During Fifth Round of NAFTA Talks in Mexico

NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern traveled to Mexico shortly before Thanksgiving to engage with negotiators from all three North American countries regarding the U.S. dairy sector’s key priorities for the modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

During the fifth round of negotiations in Mexico City at the end of November, National Milk staff met with officials from the United States, Canada and Mexico to advance U.S. dairy interests in three key areas: preservation of full access to the Mexican market; opening the Canadian market to U.S. dairy products while eliminating Canada’s market-distorting Class 7 milk pricing scheme; and improving rules designed to safeguard trade access such as those addressing Sanitary and Phyto Sanitary requirements, and geographical indications (GIs).

“All negotiations must carefully calibrate competing agendas and achieve balanced trade-offs. Hopefully the NAFTA parties are beginning to recognize that progress comes only through dialogue that strengthens the pact by addressing its shortcomings,” Mulhern said about the recent round of negotiations.  In the lead-up to the talks, as well as in their aftermath, a broad swath of organizations representing American agriculture remains concerned about preserving NAFTA, even as the Trump Administration works to improve it in important areas. NMPF has clearly and consistently underscored that withdrawal from NAFTA is not a viable option and would be devastating for the thousands of dairy farm families that rely on NAFTA to keep the door open to the industry’s No. 1 export market, Mexico.

NMPF, dairy cooperatives, state dairy associations and others in the dairy industry delivered that message to governors across the country last month in a joint letter that expressed concern about the potential U.S. withdrawal from NAFTA. More than 170 food and agriculture organizations and companies urged governors to “let President Trump know that you support a modernized NAFTA that maintains and enhances food and agricultural trade between the United States, Mexico and Canada,” and that withdrawal would have numerous adverse impacts on U.S. agriculture.

The letter was spearheaded by the NAFTA Food & Ag Trade Working Group, a coalition in which NMPF is involved, to ensure that American agriculture speaks with a united voice about the importance of preserving and improving NAFTA.

The sixth round of NAFTA discussions is scheduled for Jan. 23-28 in Canada. Negotiators hope to conclude a new deal by the end of March, as Mexico is holding elections later in 2018.