Agricultural Advocacy groups, restaurants and Retailers, caution U.S. negotiators on dangers to American agriculture while renegotiating NAFTA provisions

Letters have been sent to U.S. Commerce Secretary and U.S. Trade Representative highlighting the dangerous implications for U.S. businesses and consumers in renegotiating NAFTA provisions.

On Thursday, agricultural groups, American retailers, and restaurant have weighed in against the Trump Administration’s proposals to modernize NAFTA.

Talks to overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement is set to resume this weekend in Mexico, midst U.S. President Donald Trump’s threats to withdraw from the world’s largest trading blocs.

In a letter written by advocacy groups that was sent to U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Thursday, retailers have argued that the U.S. proposal to allow more complaints regarding the dumping of perishable produce would have “dangerous implications for U.S. businesses and consumers.”

Growers of seasonal fruit and vegetable from the southeastern states have come under increasing pressure from year-round Mexican imports under NAFTA. They want the ability to pursue anti-dumping and anti-subsidy cases or seek temporary import quotas.

Small growers have been unable to highlight their cases since they do no command a large enough market presence to qualify under current U.S. trade laws.

To address such issues, Lighthizer had said he would seek a “separate domestic industry provision for perishable and seasonal products” in trade cases.

Food industry advocacy groups, as well as retailers have argued that American producers could be left wide open to retaliatory measures if more complaints were to be filed, for instance, against avocados, tomatoes and other produce that are typically imported from Mexico.

The letters signatories include large trade groups, such as National Restaurant Association, the National Council of Chain Restaurants, Retail Industry Leaders Association, the National Retail Federation, and the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas.

On Wednesday, a separate letter was sent to Ross by 26 U.S. agriculture groups, which addressed Ross, Lighthizer, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Gary Cohn, the top White House economic adviser.

It has also urged U.S. negotiators to abandon the strategy of targeting the import of fresh produce from Mexico since it risks damaging U.S. producers.

“Once seasonal tariffs were put in place for tomatoes, for example, Mexico or Canada may initiate trade cases of their own on any of a wide range of U.S. agricultural products, beginning a tit-for-tat cycle that could broadly limit agricultural trade,” reads the letter. “At a time of low commodity prices in much of the United States, US agriculture can hardly afford to see a primary market disrupted”.

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