The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) outlined focus areas for the pending modernization talks on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), during a hearing by the Office of the United States Trade Representative.
At the hearing, Melissa San Miguel, senior director of global strategies at Washington, D.C.-based GMA, discussed the ways in which NAFTA must be preserved and updated to continue to support the 2.1 million U.S. grocery manufacturing jobs.
“NAFTA has provided significant economic opportunities to the U.S. grocery manufacturing industry, and has helped our manufacturers support millions of jobs for American workers,” San Miguel testified.
“To maintain current employment opportunities and drive future growth in the U.S. food, beverage, and consumer products manufacturing industry,” she continued, “GMA urges the Trump administration to consider the following priority objectives for modernizing NAFTA: maintain comprehensive, tariff-free trade in food, beverage, and consumer products and remove any tariff barriers, quotas and/or other limitations to market access for goods traded among NAFTA countries; update rules that increase the competitiveness of U.S. companies; and concretely align regulations among the United States, Canada and Mexico in order to decrease costs associated with unnecessary regulatory differences.”
According to San Miguel: “U.S. processed food and beverage exports totaled around $40 billion in 2016, which is roughly a third of all U.S. agricultural exports, and approximately $17.6 billion of those processed food and beverage exports were destined for Canada and Mexico. With 95 percent of the world’s potential consumers living outside the United States, exports to foreign markets are key to future growth and employment in U.S. grocery manufacturing, and a strong NAFTA agreement is critical for success.”
The talks are scheduled to begin in mid-August, with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer saying he hopes to wrap up negotiations by the end of the year, according to Reuters.