Cramming for summer exams is tough. No one knows that better than Steve Verheul, Canada’s chief negotiator who will be flying to Washington for NAFTA renegotiations on Wednesday, August 16.
The stakes are high for horticulture, particularly the greenhouse vegetable sector. The top Canadian fruit and vegetable exports to the U.S. include:
- Tomatoes ($368 million CDN)
- Peppers ($360 million CDN)
- Potatoes ($279 million CDN)
- Cucumbers and gherkins ($240 million CDN)
(Source: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 2016)
“Do no harm, while recognizing sovereign needs is the mantra,” explains Ron Lemaire, president of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA). “We do not want to disrupt positive trade nor do we want to return to antiquated trade remedies on pest management products, food safety or market access.”
Lemaire has been consulting Canadian horticultural groups as well as meeting with high-profile legislators in the United States. California’s fresh fruit and vegetable trade with Canada stands at $2 billion plus, so it’s no surprise that the priority is cultivating relationships with legislators there. He was in California in late July meeting with state senator Scott Wiener and other state and congressional representatives.
For months now, Lemaire has had meetings with several of Canada’s negotiating team including Steve Verheul, the Prime Minister’s Office and chief agricultural negotiator Frederic Seppey. Most strategic of all, CPMA’s new chair of the board is an American: Rick Alcocer. He is currently the senior vice president sales for Duda Farm Fresh Foods, which stewards 30,000 acres of fruits and vegetables. As a grower, shipper and processor, he is acutely aware of the trade dynamics with Canada.
Alcocer’s network of contacts will be invaluable as meetings continue unabated with CPMA’s semi-annual meetings planned for September 14 and 15 in Monterey, California.
“Agriculture has been the success story of NAFTA,” says Lemaire.
Look to the record. Since the implementation of NAFTA in 1994, Canadian fresh fruit and vegetable exports to Mexico and the U.S. have increased to a total of $2,181,299,795 in 2016.
For more information on NAFTA and CPMA efforts, go to: http://cpma.ca/advocate/advocacy/nafta.