Preserving and improving the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is vital to holding the doors open to international trade with our North American neighbors. From apples to software, NAFTA provides innumerable benefits for our state’s industries, especially our agricultural industries. The fight to preserve international trade isn’t just about revenue for our state and economic viability—It’s about jobs and the culture of our state. Closing doors on free trade means closing family farms.
The Trump administration’s policies concerning international trade hinder Washington’s ability to compete in international markets. As the most trade-dependent state in the country, closing doors on international trade would inhibit growth and innovation and eliminate jobs.
Closing Doors on Free Trade – And on Washington Jobs
The administration has already withdrawn from the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This delivered a tremendous blow to agriculture, including eastern Washington’s wheat growers who export nearly 90 percent of their crops overseas.
NAFTA and The Korean Free Trade Act are both under renegotiation. If efforts to renegotiate NAFTA fail, the administration has pledged to withdraw from the agreement. Doing so would prove disastrous to U.S. wheat farmers, and Washington agriculture as a whole.
At a time when wheat prices remain at record lows, losing access to international markets would devastate the industry, as well as other agricultural sectors.
According to the Washington Council on International Trade (WCIT), apple and pear exports to Mexico account for $500 million in revenue. Washington exported $80 million in dairy, eggs and honey to Mexico in 2016 and $189 million in seafood to Canada. Exports of those and other goods to Canada and Mexico are directly connected to more than 330,000 Washington jobs. In fact, according to WCIT, 40 percent of WA jobs depend on international trade.
Improve and Preserve Free Trade
Beginning in 1994, NAFTA opened doors for free trade, expanding markets for Washington’s $51 billion agricultural industries. Certainly, there’s room to modernize and improve NAFTA, but not to lose access to those markets. Between 1996 and 2015, Washington’s exports to Canada increased 200% and increased by 700% to Mexico, according to WCIT. Before NAFTA, Mexico imported less than 30 million bushels of U.S. wheat. In 2016-2017 they imported more than 121 million bushels, leading all importers of U.S. wheat.
It’s vital to protect those benefits to our industries, focusing on improvements to NAFTA during renegotiation, rather than ending it. For instance, improvements to digital trade provisions would benefit all parties and reflect changes to the modern economy and innovations in digital commerce.
It would be especially beneficial to improve Canadian markets for some key goods and services. For instance, all wheat exported into Canada is automatically graded down to feed quality, earning the lowest price. In contrast, Canadian wheat is graded and purchased in the U.S. with the same factors used to evaluate domestic wheat. This creates an unequal relationship. U.S. are currently prohibited from being sold in grocery stores in some Canadian provinces. Canadian dairy laws place severe restrictions on U.S. dairy exports and Canadian policies create uncertainly for U.S. biopharmaceutical industries.
Protecting Family Farmers
Protecting international trade for Washington farmers means protecting families. Small and family-owned farms comprise 91% of all U.S. farms and farm more than half of all our farmland. These farming families make tremendous contributions to the culture and economic viability of our state. Protecting free trade means protecting family farms.
For more information about international trade in Washington, visit http://wcit.org