Talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement must “do no harm” to the agricultural sector in the United States and Mexico that have benefitted from it, US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said Friday.
Near the end of a two-day visit to the Yucatan Peninsula in southern Mexico, Perdue said President Donald Trump is rightly concerned about helping the manufacturing sector in the NAFTA talks due to begin August 16.
“The unfortunate thing is that in many trade renegotiations… agriculture is always used as retaliatory measure,” Perdue told reporters in a conference call.
“Our goal, first of all, is to do no harm in agricultural sectors.”
He said he is working to “persuade and inform” Trump and other US negotiators about how the country’s manufacturing sector benefits from strong agricultural trade.
“We understand there’s got to be some equilibrating in manufacturing,” he said, but, “we hope that we can do it without diminishing the beneficial impact NAFTA has had on the agricultural sector.”
Perdue met in Merida, Mexico with his counterpart Jose Calzada Rovirosa, who said his government’s goal in the NAFTA talks was to “give us more certainty and improved trade.”
“Far from seeing problems, we see a big opportunity to continue to strengthen what we have been building in recent years,” Calzada told reporters in a joint press conference.
NAFTA “is an instrument for progress that has worked.”
Trump just this week repeated his threat to “terminate” NAFTA “if we don’t get the deal we want.”
He called the 1994 trade pact “a disaster” for US industry, something he said repeatedly during the campaign for the White House.
However, Perdue noted the close ties with Mexico, and downplayed concerns the country would turn to Argentina or Brazil to buy soy and corn amid concerns US supplies would dry up.
“I did not get any indication they are seriously considering that,” Perdue said.
“We have such productive and logistical advantages from the US to Mexico… we have a corner store location for their supply and frankly we will continue to take advantage of that.”
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