WASHINGTON — Democratic House leadership announced on Dec. 10 that it reached an agreement with President Donald Trump on the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The new trade deal is set to replace the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Both sides have worked for more than a year to review issues with enforcement of labor and environmental guidelines for the new trade deal. Organizations in the animal food and other agricultural industries have shown strong support of the trade deal since it was signed by the leaders of the US, Mexico and Canada in November 2018.

“There is no question of course that this trade agreement is much better than NAFTA, but in terms of our work here, it is infinitely better than what was initially proposed by the administration,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to reporters in Washington.

Several animal food industry leaders have issued statements of approval following this news, including organizations that are optimistic the trade deal will support the industry’s import and export markets for pet food products.

According to the Pet Food Institute (PFI), the US exported an estimated $740 million worth of pet food and imported more than $250 million worth of pet food products between Canada and Mexico in 2018, which represented more than half of all the United States’ pet food exports that year.

“USMCA ratification by Congress will be a critical step in assuring continued tariff-free trade with our first and third largest export markets, allowing US pet food makers to strengthen and deepen relationships with their Canadian and Mexican partners,” said Dana Brooks, president and CEO of PFI. “We appreciate the efforts of Congress and the Administration to work together and we urge Congress to complete its task by ratifying the agreement as quickly as possible.”

The American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) commended lawmakers, saying the trade agreement “brings new labor provisions to protect US jobs,” as well as provide sanitary regulations that are on par with the World Trade Organization’s rights and obligations.

The association added that since the NAFTA was signed in 1993, animal food exports nearly tripled from $699 million in 1993 to $3.2 billion in 2018.

“Now, with the ratification window quickly closing on 2019 and an election year looming, AFIA strongly urges Congress to bring the agreement to a vote,” said Constance Cullman, AFIA’s president and CEO. “Ratifying the agreement will allow US animal food producers to continue to remain competitive in the region while strengthening regulatory engagement and commitments among the three countries.”

Randy Gordon, president and CEO of the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA), also spoke on behalf of his association to support the completion of USMCA negotiations.

“We particularly appreciate the dedication and persistence of US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and House leaders to overcome final hurdles on labor enforcement to reach this milestone,” Gordon said. “We also commend the governments of two of our most important trading partners — Mexico and Canada — in working with the United States to accommodate these concerns.”

In the September issue of Pet Food Processing, Gordon made a strong case for USMCA, saying it would facilitate cross-border trade, stimulate the economy, build upon and preserve current market access, and be key to securing future US trade deals with other countries.

The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) stated that it wanted Congress to “swiftly approve” the USMCA.

“We are pleased with the agreement reached between the Trump Administration and House Leadership allowing Congress to consider USMCA before the holidays,” said Julie Anna Potts, president and CEO of NAMI. “The US meat and poultry industry exports $5.5 billion annually in products to Canada and Mexico. Swift adoption of this agreement is critical to meat and poultry processors and the millions of US farmers, ranchers, allied manufacturers and transportation companies in the food supply chain.”

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