WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, recently addressed the Washington International Trade Association, highlighting the benefits of NAFTA to American agriculture and the numerous associated American jobs. Roberts then participated in a agriculture trade discussion with Ambassador Max Baucus, former Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and U.S. Ambassador to China; and Grant Aldonas, former Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade and currently the Executive Director or the Institute of International Economic Law at Georgetown Law.
“There is a great deal of frustration in farm country because we are missing opportunities to grow our exports,” Roberts said. “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.”
“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.”
“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.”
Senator Roberts is also a member of the Senate Finance Committee, with jurisdiction over U.S. trade policy. Roberts has relentlessly highlighted the vast benefits of NAFTA to American agriculture, including multiple conversations with President Trump, U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and other high-ranking officials in the Administration.
The following is Chairman Roberts’ remarks as prepared for delivery:
Good morning. It’s great to be with you all today, and I am especially pleased to be back here with my good friend, Ambassador Baucus.
Max and I have had the opportunity to work together many times over the years in the Senate Agriculture and Finance Committees. Sometimes he rode shotgun and sometimes I did, and together we have gotten through many challenging issues.
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.
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.
But perhaps just as important, I have heard from folks around the country that they need reliable markets, both domestically and abroad, to sell not just the things that we make, but also the commodities that we grow.
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.
I especially want to thank Ambassador Baucus, as well as our colleague Senator Dick Lugar for their efforts on that front.
They are helping to convey the benefits of agricultural trade at the grassroots level, and I look forward to working with you all on that effort.
There is a great deal of frustration in farm country because we are missing opportunities to grow our 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.
Like many, I have been concerned about the impact some NAFTA proposals could have on the food and agriculture value chain.
I joined Senator Boozman, and 16 other Senators in requesting that before committing to any changes to NAFTA, or for that matter, any other free trade agreement, the economic analysis illustrating the impact on the full supply chain of industries involved be shared.
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.
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.
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.
I also believe that we should be aggressively seeking new agreements and trading opportunities around the world.
If the U.S. isn’t leading the charge and setting the rules, the European Union or others will be.
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.
With a population of nearly 1.4 billion people, China is a critical market for U.S. agriculture, and presents tremendous opportunity.
I have had many conversations with President Trump, Ambassador Lighthizer, and Secretary Ross about the role of agriculture in trade.
We now have Ted McKinney onboard with Secretary Perdue down at the U.S. Department of Agriculture serving as the first Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs.
Gregg Doud’s nomination moved in a bipartisan manner through the Senate Finance Committee. He is now waiting for the full Senate to consider his confirmation for Chief Agricultural Negotiator.
Farmers and ranchers have been waiting far too long for a Chief Agricultural Negotiator. We need to get him confirmed and in place at USTR providing a critical voice for our producers.
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.
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.
Thank you, and I look forward to this discussion.
–The Office of U.S. Senator Pat Roberts
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