Farm Bureau calls for overhauling WTO talks, keeping NAFTA intact

Buckeye Farm News

“Trade must be a tool for economic growth and not an excuse for erecting new barriers,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman during the organization’s annual meeting. “We will work with any partner ready to find a new path forward to create real trade growth and development. Trade talks must focus on increasing trade, not preventing it.”

Farm Bureau supports the World Trade Organization (WTO) and multilateral trade negotiations that open markets for U.S. agriculture products and help establish fair trade rules. Stallman said he was optimistic that the Obama administration would welcome ideas for a new approach to advance multi-lateral trade negotiations and open markets consistent with WTO.

Farm Bureau leaders have said part of the problem with the current system is that it requires the 153 member countries to sign off on any deals.

“You have 153 countries involved in the negotiations and all are not there to improve trade flows. They have other interests and goals,” Stallman said. “We can no longer sit by while those who resist opening markets further contribute to the economic slowdown.”

Farm Bureau also is against reopening the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The new adminsitration’s policy toward NAFTA is not yet clear, but any change to this agreement could have a strong effect on Ohio agriculture since Canada and Mexico are two of the state’s largest export markets.

“NAFTA has been very beneficial to agriculture and particularly Ohio agriculture,” said Adam Sharp, Ohio Farm Bureau’s senior director of legislative and regulatory policy. “Farm Bureau delegates at the annual AFBF meeting had a very strong message that we need to reenergize trade and not renegotiate NAFTA.”

Another trade area that Farm Bureau is interested in deals with easing the restrictions on trade to Cuba. Under the Bush administration, a law that allowed food and agricultural product sales to Cuba was tightened. It was changed to require that Cuba pay for the goods before they were shipped from the United States. Economic studies show that easing trade restrictions with Cuba could be a billion dollar boost to U.S. agriculture.

American Farm Bureau policy supports normalization of trade relations with Cuba.

Lynn Snyder 

Lynn Snyder is senior director of communications for Ohio Farm Bureau.

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