April 12, 2018

Warner, Kaine Urge Trump Administration To Protect Agriculture Industry in NAFTA Negotiations

~ Warn Virginia could lose up to 96,000 jobs if U.S. withdraws from the free trade agreement ~

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) urged the Trump Administration to protect Virginia’s agriculture producers and the national agricultural economy as negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) enter a critical stage. Last week, President Trump threatened to stop the free trade agreement as a way to pressure Mexico on border security.

“Throughout the negotiation process, we have been concerned by President Trump’s repeated threats to withdraw the U.S. from NAFTA, along with other protectionist trade policies being pursued by the Administration. Withdrawal from the agreement would have devastating consequences for the U.S. economy that would affect each state and nearly every job sector,” Sens. Warner and Kaine wrote in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, agriculture is Virginia’s largest private industry, with an economic impact of $70 billion annually that provides more than 334,000 jobs in the Commonwealth. The agriculture and forestry industries combined have a total economic impact of over $91 billion and provide more than 442,000 jobs in the Commonwealth. Every job in agriculture and forestry supports 1.7 jobs elsewhere in Virginia’s economy. Production agriculture alone employs 54,000 Virginians and accounts for more than $3.8 billion in economic output. Almost 10 percent of Virginia’s gross domestic product (GDP) is directly tied to agriculture and forestry.

“In Virginia alone, 46,000 to 96,000 jobs could be at risk if the U.S. exited the agreement. Thousands of these job losses would include farmers and workers in other agriculture and forestry-related industries across the country…actual withdrawal from NAFTA would seriously destabilize the integrated supply chains that have taken decades to establish and imperil the livelihoods of thousands of Virginians and millions more across the U.S.,” added the Senators.

“The Virginia Cattlemen's Association appreciates the support Senators Warner and Kaine are offering for continued negotiation of NAFTA, an important facilitator of continued trade between the United States, Canada and Mexico that has greatly benefited the vast majority of Virginia and US agricultural commodities,” said Jason H. Carter, Executive Director of the Virginia Cattlemen's Association & Virginia Beef Industry Council.

The NAFTA markets are important to Virginia’s poultry industry, and it is critical that the current renegotiation not only preserve, but actually expand access to these markets,” said Hobey Bauhan, President of the Virginia Poultry Federation.

Sens. Warner and Kaine also pushed the Administration to negotiate greater access of U.S. poultry exports to Canadian markets. According to the Virginia Poultry Federation, Virginia’s poultry industry employs as many as 17,637 people across the Commonwealth and generates an additional 32,983 jobs in supplier and ancillary industries. As of 2016, Virginia ranks 10th nationally in broiler chicken production and 6th in turkey production.

Last week, Sens. Warner and Kaine similarly raised concerns about how President Trump’s trade war with China could hurt Virginia businesses and employees, listing the set of products grown and made in Virginia that have been targeted by the Chinese for duties.

A PDF of the letter can be found here. The full letter text is below.

The Honorable Robert Lighthizer

U.S. Trade Representative

Office of the U.S. Trade Representative

600 17th Street, NW

Washington, DC 20508

Dear Ambassador Lighthizer:

As negotiations over the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) enter a critical stage, we write to you today to highlight the importance of a do-no-harm approach for Virginia’s agriculture producers and the national agricultural economy. In the face of an increasingly volatile global trade environment, we believe it is necessary to reiterate the importance of maintaining the core components of NAFTA for our agricultural community.

In Virginia, agriculture and forestry remain the largest private industries, accounting for a combined economic impact of $91 billion annually and providing more than 442,000 jobs. Each job in the agriculture and forestry sector in Virginia supports nearly two additional jobs elsewhere in the economy. Production agriculture alone employs 54,000 Virginians and accounts for more than $3.8 billion in economic output for the Commonwealth. Almost 10 percent of Virginia’s gross domestic product (GDP) is directly tied to agriculture and forestry.

The continued success of Virginia’s agriculture economy is in part due to the expansion of the global marketplace over the last several decades. Since the implementation of NAFTA, Virginia agriculture producers have witnessed tremendous growth in the number of exports to both Canada and Mexico. From 1996 to 2016, Virginia’s agriculture and forestry exports to Canada grew by 400 percent, from $58.4 million to $296.5 million. Exports to Mexico grew even faster during this time period, from $7.9 million to $113.6 million – an increase of over 1,300 percent. Today, Canada and Mexico represent Virginia’s first and third largest export markets, respectively.

While NAFTA has benefitted American agriculture producers, there are areas in which it can be improved. For example, under NAFTA, U.S. poultry exports have faced significant barriers in gaining access to the Canadian marketplace. Strict quotas and high tariffs implemented by the Canadian government have prevented American poultry producers from fully reaching this lucrative market. I am pleased this issue of market access was included in USTR’s negotiating objectives for NAFTA, and we look forward to continuing to work with you to expand opportunities for our agriculture community.

Throughout the negotiation process, we have been concerned by President Trump’s repeated threats to withdraw the U.S. from NAFTA, along with other protectionist trade policies being pursued by the Administration. Withdrawal from the agreement would have devastating consequences for the U.S. economy that would affect each state and nearly every job sector. A recent study predicted that if the U.S. left NAFTA, 1.8 million to 3.6 million jobs would be lost in the following years. In Virginia alone, 46,000 to 96,000 jobs could be at risk if the U.S. exited the agreement. Thousands of these job losses would include farmers and workers in other agriculture and forestry-related industries across the country. We are supportive of efforts to modernize NAFTA, including updating labor protections to reflect the May 10 Agreement and improving environmental protections. However, actual withdrawal from NAFTA would seriously destabilize the integrated supply chains that have taken decades to establish and imperil the livelihoods of thousands of Virginians and millions more across the U.S.

As NAFTA negotiations progress, we ask that you pursue a do-no-harm approach to modernizing free trade agreements and supporting the agriculture economy in Virginia and throughout our country. We look forward to working with you to ensure that our farmers have access to the global marketplace.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely, 

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