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Potatoes May be NAFTA Target

The National Potato Council (NPC) is calling for action in any upcoming NAFTA renegotiations.

In a letter to President Donald Trump, John Keeling, the NPC’s CEO, said the group “is strongly supportive of improving the conditions for trade that we confront with Canada and Mexico.”

Keeling also noted that the two countries represent important markets for U.S. producers. Canada is the second-largest export market with annual sales of $315 million — 17.8 percent of total U.S. exports. Mexico comes in third with annual sales of $253 million, 14.3 percent of annual exports.

“The potato industry believes that potato exports to Mexico could grow to $500 million annually with full unrestricted access for all U.S. fresh and processed potatoes,” Keeling said, noting that sales to Canada would also rise, but didn’t specify by how much.

The NPC did, however, caution against an outright withdrawal from the deal, saying tariffs, which are currently non-existent on potatoes, would revert to between 50 and 70 percent, the standard level for “most favored nation” trading partners.

Also of interest to Canadian growers is a call to address “longstanding anti-dumping actions in British Columbia.”

In the letter, the NPC said the decisions needed to be based on “solid economic analysis” performed by neutral third parties.

Keeling also said the Canadian system of “ministerial exemption” restricts free commerce for potatoes based on what he called unnecessary requirements to demonstrate a shortage of domestic product before U.S. product is allowed to enter any Canadian province.

Another improvement the NPC supports is an enhanced phytosanitary policy to reduce the use of unscientific pest and disease issues as non-tariff barriers. Such an improvement would eliminate burdens that have blocked fresh potato exports to Mexico for over a decade, their media release noted.

“The potato industry stands ready to work with the administration and Congress in pursuing these improvements for NAFTA, along with any future bilateral or multilateral agreements that may benefit our producers,” Keeling said in the release.

Source: Manitoba Cooperator

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