Minnesota’s Largest Export Markets Express Support for NAFTA
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota’s two largest export markets are touting the benefits of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which may be headed for a renewal in Washington, D.C., as early as next month.
Canadian Consul General Paul Connors and Mexican Consul Gerardo Guerrero have been expressing their support for NAFTA to Minnesota factories, farmers and workers, Minnesota Public Radio reported.
Minnesota’s trading partners helped the state’s turkey industry survive when it faced the avian flu in 2015, said Shawntera Hardy, commissioner of the state Department of Employment and Economic Development.
“One of the countries that stepped up and said, ‘We’ll still buy your good turkeys,’ was Mexico. And they helped us weather that storm,” Hardy said.
The state’s turkey industry is the largest in the U.S., worth nearly $1 billion. About one-seventh of the state’s turkeys are exported.
Minnesota imported an estimated $10 billion worth of products from Canada last year and exported $4.3 billion. Minnesota imported $2 billion from Mexico and exported $2.4 billion, according to DEED.
Those numbers would look differently without NAFTA, Guerrero said.
“Turkey would pay a tariff of 10 percent,” Guerrero said. “Cheese 45 percent. So with NAFTA, all the exports to Mexico are free trade.”
When adjusted for inflation, the NAFTA export market has grown about 50 percent in Minnesota since 1994, Hardy said.
Gov. Mark Dayton also sent a letter supporting a new NAFTA to Washington in February.
Labor union AFL-CIO is pushing for tougher labor laws as part of the deal.
“We’re going to keep fighting for a trade model that’s different, that isn’t just answerable to corporate interests, but is really answerable to ordinary families in all three NAFTA countries,” said Celeste Drake, the labor organization’s trade policy specialist in Washington, D.C.
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