Farm Progress

Sen. Pat Roberts, in an address to the Washington International Trade Association, pushes for modernizing NAFTA, seeking more agreements.

Walt Davis 1, Editor

December 20, 2017

4 Min Read
FARMERS NEED NAFTA: Sen. Pat Roberts spoke out strongly in favor of the U.S. remaining a partner in NAFTA and working to strengthen and modernize the agreement.Marc Bruxelle/iStock/Thinkstock

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, expressed strong support for modernizing the North American Free Trade Agreement in a speech before the Washington International Trade Association on Dec. 12.

Following the address, Roberts participated in an agriculture trade discussion with Max Baucus, former chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and U.S. Ambassador to China; and Grant Aldonas, former undersecretary of commerce for international trade and currently the executive director or the Institute of International Economic Law at Georgetown Law.

“Trade is more than a product crossing a border. A seed planted in a field might ultimately become a meal for a family, but in between you’ll find the combine that harvests it, the facility that processes it, and perhaps most important, the people employed at every step of the way,” Roberts said.

Roberts said he is hearing a lot of farmers express frustration because the U.S. is missing chances to increase exports.
“I believe that the renegotiation of NAFTA could provide just that opportunity. Strengthening and modernizing NAFTA should result in even stronger economic growth for the United States, and for Canada and Mexico,” he said.

“U.S. agriculture has grown because of agreements like NAFTA, and from the farmer in the field to the grocer in the store, American workers have benefited from that growth,” the senator added.

Roberts is chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. He is also a member of the Senate Finance Committee, with jurisdiction over U.S. trade policy.

Roberts has highlighted the vast benefits of NAFTA to American agriculture during multiple conversations with President Donald Trump, U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and other high-ranking officials in the Administration.

“As the Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, my primary task is to work on behalf of farmers, ranchers, growers, and other rural stakeholders in Kansas and across the rest of our country,” Roberts said in the speech.

“In preparation for writing the next farm bill, I’ve been talking with many of these stakeholders all over the country, and one thing is clear: Times are challenging right now in farm country. We are in a rough patch. We are going to do what we can to provide farmers and ranchers with the certainty they need to be successful producers,” he said.

Roberts said he is also hearing that farmers need reliable markets, both at home and abroad, to sell not the commodities that are grown in America.

“I’ve also been spending a lot of time over the last year talking about trade, in particular agricultural trade. And, I have been encouraging everyone — farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, senators, as well as officials in the administration — to help fight the pervasive view that our economy has not benefited from trade agreements like NAFTA.”

Roberts thanked Baucus as well as Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) for adding their voices to the call to stay in NAFTA and renegotiate to strengthen and modernize the agreement.

“Canada and Mexico have been continuously ranked in the top five destinations for U.S. exports since NAFTA was signed into law, and we must work hard to continue to cultivate and grow that mutually beneficial relationship,” Roberts said. “I also believe that we should be aggressively seeking new agreements and trading opportunities around the world.”

China, with a population of 1.4 billion people, remains a critical market for U.S. agriculture, and presents tremendous growth opportunity, Roberts said.

“I was pleased that one of the early achievements during President Trump’s administration was an agreement with China to allow U.S. beef access for the first time since 2003. And, this administration continues to signal a commitment to pursue aggressive trade enforcement at the WTO on China’s administration of its tariff rate quotas, and market price support programs for wheat, corn, and rice,” Roberts said.

“Last week, I stated that we are at a crossroads on trade.  If the U.S. is to continue both as a leader in the global market and to grow the American economy, then we must aggressively work to strengthen existing relationships and develop new ones,” the senator said. “No one knows more than the agriculture sector the rewards that come from our trading partners. I believe that agriculture should be front and center as the U.S. pursues trading opportunities around the world.”

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