Chief Ag Negotiator on NAFTA: “These Are Bilateral Conversations”

Bi-Lateral Trade Doud
U.S. Trade Representative chief ag negotiator Gregg Doud talks to Farm Journal about ag issues. ( Betsy Jibben )

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is vocal that the Trump administration is leaning towards potentially drifting away from the tri-lateral North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and heading toward two separate bi-lateral agreements with Canada and Mexico.

“I am optimistic overall,” said Perdue to U.S. Farm Report host, Tyne Morgan. “The president has made the decision certainly on NAFTA not to withdraw but to negotiate separately with Canada and Mexico believing that we can get a better deal with Canada and with Mexico separately. Honestly, based on some of the differences and the needs there, that’s true.”

Ambassador Gregg Doud, chief ag negotiator for the U.S. Trade Representatives believes NAFTA has never been a tri-lateral deal, explaining the U.S. negotiated the U.S.-Canadian free trade agreement in 1988 and a separate agreement with Mexico, which Canada joined in 1994.

“You have to understand, when we’re doing this, when we are negotiating, very seldom are all- if ever- are three countries in the room at the same time,” said Doud. “These are bi-lateral conversations. We talk with Canada and we talk with Mexico.”

AgDay national reporter Betsy Jibben asked, “Is it fair for me to say [the administration] is aiming towards bi-lateral?”

Doud replied, “I don’t know if it’s ever really been any different than that anyway.”

Nick Giordano, vice president and counsel with the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) says without knowing possible verbiage or what a potential bi-lateral deal would look like with Mexico, the industry should support whatever deal works to restore trade with Mexico.

“We are for whatever works to restore our trade to Mexico and keep that trade,” said Giordano. “We’ve had zero tariffs in Mexico for quite some time thanks to NAFTA. It’s a huge market for us. We are for the fastest possible solution for these trade disputes.”

Giordano also saying NPPC has a priority to get a bi-lateral trade deal with Japan.