YAKIMA, Wash. -- Members of the agricultural community locally and statewide reacted positively to a new trade agreement between the U.S., Mexico and Canada that would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.
U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, a Sunnyside Republican who represents the 4th Congressional District, wrote in a statement Monday that agriculture has fared well under NAFTA, and the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, provides several improvements.
“American workers needed a level playing field and President (Donald) Trump kept his promise to renegotiate NAFTA with that goal,” Newhouse wrote in his statement about the agreement, which still has to be ratified by the governments of all three countries.
One of the most notable breakthroughs came for the dairy industry, which was concerned that Canada’s policies unfairly restricted U.S. dairy exports not only to Canada but other foreign markets.
As of 2016, exports of Washington state milk products to Canada were just $12 million compared to the $72 million in product shipped to Mexico.
In the new agreement, Canada agreed to end a pricing program that allowed the country to undercut prices for milk powders and other related products in Canada and foreign markets.
Canada also agreed to import a set amount — up to 3.59 percent of domestic production — of U.S. dairy products, including milk, cream and cheese, tariff-free.
“The dairy aspects of USMCA were some of the most fiercely contested and divisive issues,” Stan Ryan, president of Darigold, the marketing and promotion arm of the Northwest Dairy Farmers Association, wrote in a statement for the Yakima Herald-Republic. “We are grateful for (President Donald Trump’s) administration and the U.S. Trade Representative’s stern and ardent support of the U.S. dairy industry.”
Darigold operates a processing plant in Sunnyside.
Along with improved market conditions for U.S. dairy products, the agreement also provides fairer treatment to U.S. wheat in Canada and removes barriers with the trade of wine and distilled spirits.
The new agreement also ensures continued tariff-free exports of Washington state cherries, apples and pears to the two countries, said Mark Powers, president of the Northwest Horticultural Council, which represents the tree fruit industry in policy matters, such as trade.
“Continued duty-free treatment, we thought, was never truly in jeopardy, but it’s good that is confirmed in writing,” Powers said in a phone interview Monday.
Powers noted additional language regarding sanitary and phytosanitary measures, which are regulations countries place on imports to ensure protection of plant, animal and human health. The agreement provides additional clarity on the scientific backing countries must provide in implementing those measures.
“It’s more difficult for a trading partner to use a ... regulation or rule to limit trade rather than what it intended to do, which is to protect plant, animal and human health,” he said.