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NAFTA proposal would hurt free trade

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If you are an exporter of fruits and vegetables, please heed these words: Your business is in immediate danger. Now.

The U.S. has put forth an anti-trade negotiating objective under the North America Free Trade Agreement. It is a Pandora’s box that is not consistent with World Trade Organization norms and would invite other nations to more easily put up protectionist regulations against U.S. exports.

This NAFTA negotiating objective is to “seek a separate domestic industry provision for perishable seasonal products in antidumping and countervailing duty proceedings.”

Under current U.S. law, dumping must be proved over the course of a year by petitioners representing the majority of U.S. production.

Essentially, this proposal would allow fruit and vegetable industry sectors to carve out their own windows of protection, resulting in seasonal tariffs against imports.

In a managed trade environment, it’s not just consumers who lose.

There are indications the U.S. Trade Representative will put this proposal on the negotiating table in the first round of NAFTA negotiations, starting Aug. 17.

This concept would give farmers the notion that they can have guaranteed markets, with a ready mechanism to keep competitors out. Instead of free trade, shall we call it managed trade?

Whatever you call it, we should recognize this has dangerous implications for producers in all three nations, and it should be nipped in the bud before it gets put on the table.

If this negotiating objective goes forward, many U.S. fruit and vegetable exports would eventually come under threat.

Let’s stop to think about this and insert human nature.

No matter your nationality, if you had the chance to create a market for yourself, why wouldn’t you?

Yet the flip side to this equation leads to economic stagnation because the entire agriculture economy would contract, decreasing job opportunities in rural America.

In a managed trade environment, it’s not just consumers who lose.

 The implementation of managed trade undoubtedly would decrease the overall economic activity that has benefited from NAFTA. The cross-border trade in seeds, boxes, pallets, agrichemicals, farming equipment and services, and more would suffer.

Meanwhile, for many U.S. growers of high-value fruits and vegetables, there is a reality that export markets allow otherwise mature industries to continue to grow and provide jobs in Washington, California, Michigan and just about anywhere where the weather and land allow it.

So if you are concerned that a misguided effort to game the system for regional, seasonal industries is a bad idea, then you should contact the U.S. Trade Representative and the Department of Commerce. And follow up with your elected representatives.

The time is running short. Without your voice, the momentum favors the favored few.

Lance Jungmeyer is president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, Nogales, Ariz., which since 1944 has provided a voice for distributors of Mexican-grown fresh fruits and vegetables.

The Packer

 By Lance Jungmeyer August 04, 2017 | 1:00 pm EDT