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The Importance of NAFTA for the Agricultural Sector

Trade flows of agricultural commodities between the United States, Canada, and Mexico are very large. In 2016, US agricultural imports from Canada totaled $24.9 billion while US exports amounted to $25.3 billion. In the same year, US imports of agricultural products from Mexico reached $24.66 billion and US exports to Mexico were $17.68 billion. Generally, NAFTA has been operating very well except for a few irritants. Trade talks are notoriously slow and agriculture is typically a major point of contention. However, agriculture may not be a major obstacle in the current NAFTA negotiations. Nonetheless, there are certain agricultural trade issues that are likely to be sensitive.In Canada, products under supply management —dairy, chicken and eggs—are likely to remain protected if the outcome of recent trade negotiations are any indication. In 2016, Canada signed CETA, a free trade agreement with the European Union. Although the European Union attempted early in the negotiations to convince Canada to terminate its supply management programs, it only obtained small concessions on cheese imports. Likewise, in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an agreement that will not include the United States, Canada agreed to minimal concessions regarding its supply management programs with import increases representing between 1.5 percent and 3.25 percent of domestic production.Mexico and the United States were recently involved in a dispute over sugar. The dispute was resolved in June with Mexico agreeing to limit its exports of refined sugar to the United States. It is likely that Mexico is considering this as a temporary solution and will seek a permanent solution with NAFTA. Mexico is the largest importer of US corn and has been using its corn imports from the United States as a bargaining chip. Indeed, Mexico has threatened to buy corn from South America to replace its corn imports from the United States. Closing of the Mexican market to US corn would cause a significant decline in corn prices in the United States, which would be particularly painful for corn-belt states.

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Iowa State University