On the scene: NAFTA leads PNWER conference

Oregon, Canada stress importance of international trade agreement at economic summit.

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Lawrence MacAulay, Canadian Minister of Agriculture, said his message to the 2017 Pacific NorthWest Economic Region summit was simple: Canada is dedicated to preserving the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and improving its trade relationship with the U.S. 

MacAulay delivered the keynote address Monday and continued the NAFTA conversation in a break-out session. He said he looks forward to working with President Trump to expand trade.

Dismantling NAFTA has been a key agenda item for the Trump Administration.  

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Representatives from Canada and the Northwest discussed agriculture and trade during afternoon breakout sessions.

Alexis Taylor, Oregon Department of Agriculture Director, said since NAFTA was implemented in 1994, food ag exports from the U.S. to Canada and Mexico quadrupled from $11 billion to $43 billion.

Taylor added that the 20-year relationship has created both consumer and producer confidence.

“We often see first time exporters going to Canada then expanding to other markets,” she said.

More than 40% of Oregon agriculture products are exported internationally, Taylor said. Eighty percent of state agriculture products are sold outside Oregon. 

NAFTA trade negotiations are set to begin later this summer. MacAulay said it’s important that “whatever discussions that take place do not do anything that’s a deterrent to trade.”

“There is of course some concern when politicians get involved. We don’t want to frig it up.”