NAFTA negotiators must remember farmers, business interests

Posted: Feb. 7, 2018 5:10 pm

To The Herald-Whig:

Our nation's economy stands at a crucial moment. As countries trade goods and services at rates never seen before, the global economy becomes more intertwined than ever.

Here in America, we make the best goods in the world, but in too many countries tariffs and regulations put our goods at a disadvantage. That is why it is crucial we continue to work to better trade agreements like NAFTA.

Ours is the eighth largest agriculture congressional district in the country, containing some of the most fertile farmland in the world. As great as the products may be, our farmers and agriculture industry must have markets to sell their goods. That's where free trade agreements like NAFTA come in, removing barriers that allow our corn and soybeans to be sold all over the world at competitive prices.

Since the implementation of NAFTA, American agriculture exports have more than quadrupled from $8.9 billion to $38 billion annually. This is significant, and is the reason why the agriculture sector now supports over 21 million jobs.

Other sectors of our district's economy are just as affected by trade, especially manufacturing. Since NAFTA's implementation, we have seen tariffs on American goods come down and more markets open up. That is why our trade agreement partners receive half of all exports of American manufactured goods. The benefits of this are passed on to hard-working families, with the 38 million jobs linked to trade paying 15 to 20 percent more.

We must also be mindful of the problems that can arise. For example, recent Canadian policies creating quotas and tariffs, for the importing of American poultry and dairy, have threatened those industries. Now is the time to take a fresh look at our trade agreements, not with an eye to withdrawing from the global economy, but to make our trade fairer.

President Trump and his trade team are renegotiating the NAFTA deal, and it is my hope that they keep in mind the businesses and families of Central Illinois. As a new member on the House Ways and Means Committee, I look forward to having a strong voice on the issue of trade and any new deals.

The people of Central and West-Central Illinois know that free trade is a win-win, and it is vital that we make these agreements fairer to stay at the forefront of the world economy.

Darin LaHood

U.S. representative, R-Illinois

Dunlap, Ill.

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