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Tri-National Accord mulls the renegotioation of NAFTA deal

DENVER, Colo. — State and foreign officials gathered last month in Colorado to discuss a way forward for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), currently being renegotiated.

The gathering, the Tri-National Agricultural Accord, was the 26th such meeting in as many years. State agricultural officials met with their counterparts from Mexico and Canada. The Accord meetings represent a longstanding commitment to work together collaboratively on agricultural trade and development issues, according to a statement issued in conjunction with the meeting held Oct. 17-19.

“Trade with Canada and Mexico is absolutely vital for agriculture in Michigan,” said Jamie Clover Adams, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. “As our federal governments continue to negotiate a modernized NAFTA, it is imperative that the gains agriculture has made under NAFTA are preserved and that we ‘do no harm,’ so that agricultural trade with our North American neighbors can continue to grow and prosper.”

The officials released a joint letter asking their respective federal officials to swiftly modernize NAFTA in a way that does not harm North America’s agriculture and food processing industries so that these industries can have the “certainty to invest for the long term.”

The officials also asked for ways to enhance and formalize mechanisms for states and provinces to consult with the federal Consultative Committees on Agriculture and to serve as official advisors to their relevant committees.

“Input from state and provincial representatives will help ensure a comprehensive understanding of issues under consideration and their impacts,” the letter stated. “In addition, we encourage the formalization of the (committees) into NAFTA.”

Officials would also like to build upon and enhance the work of the Canada-U.S. Regulatory Cooperation Council, the U.S.-Mexico High Level Regulatory Cooperation Council and trilateral regulatory cooperation bodies to improve regional cooperation, “regulatory harmonization” and “trade facilitation.”

Accord members support coordination across federal governments to ensure a “coherent regulatory approach” that reduces duplicative requirements and is science-based, transparent and impartial, the letter said.

The fourth “ask” in the letter states that NAFTA’s Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary and Technical Barriers to Trade provisions should be modernized to ensure effective and timely communication and cooperation. It also asks that dispute resolution mechanisms in NAFTA be fair and impartial, and requests that Chapter 19 of NAFTA be preserved and enhanced. Chapter 19 provides a review of final anti-dumping and countervailing duty determinations.

Delegates at the meeting discussed the usefulness of state and provincial attendance at NAFTA negotiating rounds so they can speak with federal negotiators on agri-food talks.

Other topics of discussion at the meeting included low-level presence of antibiotics or antimicrobials, pollinator health, cross-border movement, animal traceability, potato market access, wheat grading, organic equivalency and biotechnology.