While addressing the Washington International Trade Assn. on Tuesday morning, Senate Agriculture Committee chairman Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) continued to encourage everyone – farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, senators, as well as officials in the Administration - to help fight the pervasive view that the economy has not benefited from trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Roberts then participated in an agricultural trade discussion with Max Baucus, U.S. ambassador to China and a former chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Grant Aldonas, executive director of the Institute of International Economic Law at Georgetown Law and a former undersecretary of commerce for international trade.
“There is a great deal of frustration in farm country because we are missing opportunities to grow our exports,” Roberts said. “I believe that the renegotiation of NAFTA could provide just that opportunity. Strengthening and modernizing NAFTA should result in even stronger economic growth for the United States and for Canada and Mexico.”
Roberts noted that, like many others, he has been concerned about the impact some NAFTA proposals could have on the agricultural value chain. He and other senators have requested that an economic analysis be conducted to illustrate the impact on the full supply chain of industries involved before any changes in NAFTA are finalized.
“Trade is more than a product crossing a border. A seed planted in a field might ultimately become a meal for a family, but in between, you’ll find the combine that harvests it, the facility that processes it and, perhaps most important, the people employed at every step of the way,” Roberts said. “U.S. agriculture has grown because of agreements like NAFTA, and from the farmer in the field to the grocer in the store, American workers have benefited from that growth.”
Roberts is also a member of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over U.S. trade policy. Roberts has relentlessly highlighted the vast benefits of NAFTA to American agriculture, including multiple conversations with President Donald Trump, U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and other high-ranking officials in the Administration.
In his comments, Roberts also said farmers and ranchers have been waiting “far too long” for a chief agricultural negotiator as Gregg Doud’s nomination continues to be held up in the Senate. “We need to get him confirmed and in place at USTR providing a critical voice for our producers,” he said.