A week after the confirmation of Robert Lighthizer as U.S. trade representative, the U.S. government formally triggered the 90-day countdown to renegotiating NAFTA on May 18. Talks will start in earnest in mid-August.
Lighthizer’s confirmation had been delayed for weeks because he needed a special waiver for previous lobbying work on behalf of the Brazilian government. He came to prominence in President Ronald Reagan’s years as deputy trade representative. Since then, he’s been an active lobbyist for U.S. steel companies fighting imports of foreign-market steel.
News about imminent NAFTA negotiations triggered a statement from United Fresh Produce Association based in Washington. The entire statement follows:
Following the transmittal to Congress of a letter by the United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer which indicates that President Trump intends to initiate negotiations with Canada and Mexico regarding the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Robert Guenther, Senior Vice President of Public Policy, United Fresh offered the following statement:
“We look forward to working with the Administration, Congress, produce industry colleagues, and our partners in Mexico and Canada to examine effective ways NAFTA can be modernized. The fruit and vegetable industry is highly dependent on international trade, both exports from the United States and imports from critical trading partners such as Mexico and Canada. It is clear that today’s consumers demand 24-7 availability of produce commodities regardless of geographic growing seasons.
With specifics to NAFTA, there is a strong interdependence of the fruit and vegetable sector across all three countries. Trade across the NAFTA countries serves both consumers and deeply connected supply chains, providing significant jobs not only in agriculture but in processing and distribution. The past 25 years of NAFTA has seen important growth in the fruit and vegetable industry to meet consumer demand. However, there are certainly specific challenges within fresh produce that NAFTA modernization can aggressively address, so we are pleased that this opportunity has been realized by the Administration.
Since January, United Fresh has been in constant dialogue with Congress, the Administration and other interested stakeholders to convey that the fruit and vegetable industry needs trade agreements that facilitate trade, rather than erecting barriers that protect specific interests. This includes pursuit of trade agreements that eliminate unfair, discriminatory and non-science-based regulatory barriers that disadvantage the industry both here in North America and throughout the globe. United Fresh will work to ensure that changes to NAFTA reflect those principles.”
Source: United Fresh May 18, 2017 statement