The first round of negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) begin today in Washington, D.C., marking the start of trade talks between officials from the U.S., Canada and Mexico to update the 23-year old trade pact. The talks, which will conclude this Sunday, will take place between chief negotiators John Melle, assistant U.S. trade representative for the western hemisphere; Ken Smith Ramos, director of the Trade and NAFTA Office at the Embassy of Mexico in Washington; and Steve Verheul, chief trade negotiator for Canada.
Maintaining the U.S. dairy industry’s export market in Mexico is the number one priority for IDFA in the renegotiation. IDFA has also pushed for the negotiators to use NAFTA to address problems with Canada’s use of new milk pricing policies that undercut skim milk powder prices on the international market, to eliminate steep tariffs and to seek greater dairy market access to the country.
IDFA will take full advantage of any opportunities to engage with negotiators and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to ensure that the priorities of the U.S. dairy industry are addressed as the talks progress. In the 90-day period since plans to negotiate the agreement were announced, IDFA has:
- Met with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, congressional leaders and senior members of the Trump Administration to stress dairy’s NAFTA negotiation priorities;
- Represented dairy in a USTR roundtable discussion on NAFTA and trade policy;
- Urged NAFTA negotiators to address IDFA’s trade priorities in renegotiation talks; and
- Submitted written testimony to the Senate Agriculture Committee that highlights dairy’s priorities in NAFTA.
Michael Dykes, D.V.M., IDFA president and CEO also joined leaders from the National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Dairy Export Council on a trip to Mexico in March to reassure Mexican government officials of the U.S. industry’s commitment to the existing strong trade relationship between the countries.
The current talks are just one of several planned by the U.S., Canadian and Mexican governments. IDFA expects the next talks to occur in September in Mexico, but no dates have officially been announced.
“Negotiators hope to conclude the talks by the end of the year,” said Beth Hughes, IDFA director of international affairs. “This fast-paced goal means IDFA will have several opportunities this fall to provide input in the discussions.”
Once an agreement is reached, the U.S. will send it to Congress for approval. Mexico will send the agreement to their Senate for a vote. Canada is required to table it in its House of Commons for a minimum of 21 days for discussion, but no vote is required on the agreement. Ratification in Canada will then be handled by its Cabinet.
For more information, contact Beth Hughes, IDFA director of international affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.