NAFTA Negotiations Update: Mark Cassius, Dante Galeazzi, and Lance Jungmeyer Discuss
WASHINGTON, DC - News is swirling with current NAFTA negotiations updates, as pressure mounts around the upcoming round of potential changes. Much of the industry is cautiously optimistic after recent announcements acknowledge the necessity of trading relations with our neighboring countries. To shed light on conversations at hand, I reached out to some industry leaders in the thick of the current discussion.
“It needs to be in the best interest of both parties to continue to have a dialogue for a positive resolution that is beneficial for everyone. It’s a lot of saber rattling on both sides,” industry veteran Mark Cassius tells me. “NAFTA has left its footprint on our industry, and that is something that will never be the same if we choose to walk away. In order to cultivate healthy and lasting relationships after negotiations are said and done, we need to make sure that all sides are listening to each other; that the priority requests are being met while continuing to see that the needs of the individual countries are met. Not everything will fit perfectly at first, but these are the steps that need to be made in order to preserve this flow of trade we currently enjoy, especially within our industry.”
Negotiations for the 24-year-old agreement have a rippling effect on our industry, and while talks seem encouraging for some members of the industry, this is a byproduct of continued efforts and promises made—not only in talks, but also in the projected results. This can be seen in the manifesting alterations that, arguably, benefit all parties involved.
“We have seen great progress in some parts of the agriculture negotiations, particularly in potential regulatory cooperation which should be good for exporters in all three countries. Customs is also a bright spot with much opportunity,” Lance Jungmeyer, President of Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, tells me. “Mexico and Canada have stayed resolutely against the seasonality proposal, which would set a bad precedent for ag trade.”
The seasonality proposal that Lance touches on would make trade of produce with the U.S. seasonally difficult with potential tariffs. The progress made, which he initially points to, includes tweaks in the NAFTA design that don’t stop at the handling of food at the finish line, but reach further back into the collaborative process necessary throughout the exportation and importation of foods—a process that saves our industry some immeasurably important elements: time and money. When it comes to produce, these shifts in relationships are crucial and under the microscope, with some industry members more optimistic than others.
“It was very encouraging to hear about the progress on the phytosanitary and food safety regulations. South Texas is a major location for imports, with Pharr being the heaviest point of imports for fresh produce from Mexico. As a result, many companies along the border region have close dealings or operations in Mexico, and anytime we can create efficiencies through harmonization of regulations, it saves money, time, and efforts for those companies,” Dante Galeazzi shares.
Further, NAFTA undoubtedly benefits job creation, with manufacturing opportunities seen in both Mexico and the U.S. and some U.S. workers even making the trek across the border into Mexico for work, as well as benefits the production of fresh produce options at retail, but NAFTA continues to be a strained relationship that, if it wants to be fruitful, needs the kinks ironed out. Some windows of opportunity remain shut, however, amidst so much room for economic growth in the agreement, and because of the currently stressed relationships, according to CNBC, Canada is looking to nurture new agreements outside of NAFTA, with up to 70 percent of Canadian exports making their way into the U.S. In order to prevent this wandering eye from acting with easier-fitting partnerships, there needs to be tangible compromises.
According to Bloomberg, negotiations are likely to rev back up in April in Washington, where representatives from the three countries will meet to create concrete changes and solidify the terminology within the agreement. Industry leaders are coming together to ensure the outcome benefits all parties involved.
“As an industry, I think we would definitely like to see the pace of progress proceed much quicker, but we understand the importance and the attention needed to work on the agreement. Trade is a huge economic value to the US, and especially this region,” Dante explains. “Above all though, we don’t want NAFTA to go away, so we’ll continue to work with other associations and organizations to contribute comments where we can.”
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