State officials travel to Canada on a trade mission in August, seeking again to calm fears about the fate of NAFTA.
Nebraska hosted a Mexican trade delegation recently, hoping to assure Mexico that NAFTA will be modernized, not abolished.
State Agriculture Director Greg Ibach says the agricultural sector remains satisfied with the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“But I think if you look at the conversations that are going on in D.C., the real trade concerns aren’t necessarily commodities that revolve around Nebraska at this time,” Ibach tells reporters during a news conference. “They’re manufacturing versus agriculture.”
NAFTA became effective in 1994. It eliminated virtually all tariffs and trade restrictions for goods and services flowing among the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
It came under fire during last year’s presidential campaign as a number of candidates questioned the value to America of free trade. President Trump has been harshly critical of the agreement and many of his statements have been taken to mean he would withdraw from the agreement when elected.
Governors from agricultural states have expressed their strong support for NAFTA, including Gov. Pete Ricketts.
Ricketts says he has a message for Washington: NAFTA benefits Nebraska.
“Help make sure that everybody in Washington, D.C. understands that this is an agreement that at least for Nebraska has been working really, really well and we don’t want to disrupt that,” Ricketts says.
Ricketts concedes there might be opportunity to improve the agreement, but he says NAFTA has worked well for Nebraska.
Canada is Nebraska’s top trade partner with Nebraska goods and services exported to Canada totaling $1.6 billion annually. Canada imports $468 million in agricultural goods from Nebraska each year.
Concerns about NAFTA arose last month when Gov. Ricketts hosted a trade delegation from Mexico.
Trade with Mexico is estimated to have a $287 million impact on the state economy. Mexico is the largest market for U.S. corn, buying approximately 20% of the corn and corn co-products produced in this country. Last year, Mexico bought 523.5 million bushels of corn from the United States, valued at $2.5 billion. The U.S. also exported 1.9 million metric tons of distiller’s dried grains with solubles, a byproduct of ethanol.
Delegates from Mexico reported talk of the possible withdrawal of the U.S. from NAFTA has had a significantly negative impact on their country.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]