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Ag Secretary Goes All In To Save NAFTA

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As President Donald Trump continues to threaten to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement, his agriculture secretary is trying to preserve the trade deal that has largely benefitted American farmers.

Since the start of his time leading the Department of Agriculture, Secretary Sonny Perdue continually tries to convince Trump that NAFTA needs to be updated, not scrapped, for the sake of the agriculture industry.

“I talked to him this morning, actually,” Perdue told reporters at an event in Iowa Wednesday, of his conversations with Trump on NAFTA. “He’s concerned about American agriculture, but he’s also concerned about the overall economy.”

“The president understands very clearly that NAFTA has been beneficial to agriculture,” Perdue said. “The challenge is, he’s looking at the trade deficit that’s occurred after NAFTA was done, primarily in autos and auto parts. How do you reconcile those two?”

Trump tweeted that the U.S. may have to terminate NAFTA, which he called “the worst trade deal ever made,” in a tweet Sunday morning, just over a week after the first round of negotiation talks between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico concluded Aug. 16. (RELATED: Trump: Canada And Mexico ‘Being Very Difficult’ On NAFTA Renegotiations)

Perdue was partially responsible for helping convince Trump to try renegotiation before triggering a withdrawal earlier this spring. Perdue reportedly took a map of the farm counties that would be adversely affected by a sudden withdrawal from NAFTA and compared it to Trump-supporting counties

Not every agriculture sector has universally benefitted from NAFTA, and the agreement has adversely affected several parts of the agriculture economy in recent years. Produce farmers recently complained that Mexico is unfairly subsidizing fruit crops and dumping tomatoes, berries, watermelon and other products into U.S. markets.

Most other sectors, like grain and meat producers, have seen massive increases in sales to other countries since NAFTA was ratified in the 1990s. Many experts worry that agriculture will be the first hit if Canada or Mexico retaliate for the U.S. withdrawing from NAFTA.

The three countries will commence a second round of trade talks in Mexico starting Friday.

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