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Modernizing NAFTA to Preserve U.S. Jobs and Consumer Choice

June 28, 2017

By: Melissa San Miguel, Senior Director, Global Strategies- Multilateral Affairs

A former boss (who had toiled away on trade negotiations for decades) used to joke that trade was in the news for about five minutes every five years.  If he’s reading this blog post now, I hope he’s happy that trade is finally getting its moment in the spotlight!  Certainly, in the lead up to the U.S. presidential election and now during the first few months of President Trump’s administration, trade has been a hot topic – and for all the right reasons.  “Trade” might seem remote, but the unique opportunities and challenges of the modern, global marketplace deserve attention to get the benefits right for U.S. families and workers.

What does trade mean for U.S. food, beverage, and consumer products manufacturers?  It means being able to provide more choices, at a more affordable price, and to more families in the United States.  It means setting fair rules so American manufacturers can compete and win in foreign markets.  And it means more opportunity to grow our companies, to drive economic impact, and to sustain and create U.S. jobs.

The food, beverage, and consumer products industry is the largest source of employment in U.S. manufacturing – we employ 2.1 million people in 30,000 communities across the United States. Those jobs are supported by the food we manufacture here, which is relied on every day by American families and also exported around the world.

That’s why the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) is asking the Trump administration to maintain the benefits of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) for our industry and expand them.

Representing GMA at a hearing of the U.S. International Trade Commission this week, I spoke on how NAFTA allows U.S. food and beverage manufacturers to source and import high-quality ingredients that are not grown or widely available in the United States (for example, the coffee beans I need to keep myself moving on a rough Monday morning!).  It also allows U.S. products to be sold at competitive prices in Mexico and Canada, giving consumers there access to the variety and quality of made-in-the-USA products we enjoy here.

What could NAFTA do better?  Well, in the more than twenty years since NAFTA was concluded, a lot has changed in the world.  Modern NAFTA rules could better protect U.S. exports from unfair treatment (like arbitrary product testing requirements) and set the gold standard for future U.S. trade agreements.  The United States, Canada, and Mexico can also work together under NAFTA to reduce unnecessary differences in regulations that only increase costs without benefiting health and safety (for example, by having Mexico and Canada recognize U.S. food safety standards).

Since NAFTA was enacted, U.S. total food and agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico have approximately quadrupled—growing from $11 billion in 1993 to over $43 billion in 2016.  With a modern NAFTA, we can keep growing U.S. exports and drive future growth and employment in U.S. grocery manufacturing.

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