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What's at Stake for MN in This Week's NAFTA Talks?

Researchers say NAFTA has led to the loss of many U.S. family farms. (Don Graham/Flickr)
Researchers say NAFTA has led to the loss of many U.S. family farms. (Don Graham/Flickr)
August 14, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS – The Trump administration reopens talks Wednesday on the North American Free Trade Agreement.

NAFTA supporters say it has boosted American farm exports and trade in general among the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

But critics say it has hurt people in all three countries by rewarding low pay, and diminished environmental standards.

Juliette Majot, executive director of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, says fixing the agreement would mean changing its objectives.

"Those objectives right now are to expand market share, to undermine the ability of the U.S. government to actually govern, to put that power in the hands of major corporations," she states.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says exports have increased under NAFTA, but large corporations now control most production.

IATP says Minnesota has lost about 25 percent of its small and medium-sized farms since NAFTA went into effect.

Nationwide, 100,000 smaller farms have gone under since 2009, a figure blamed partly on NAFTA making it hard to compete against cheap imports.

Majot expects Trump officials to try to give even greater advantages to agribusiness.

"Unfortunately, the renegotiation is headed toward ensuring that most of the things that were wrong with it will stay wrong with it, and new things will be introduced to it that will make it particularly problematic," she stresses.

Majot says it's a good time for people to learn more about NAFTA so they can share their questions and concerns with elected officials. She acknowledges trade talks can be hard to follow, but says the basics are not difficult, and are essential to understand.

"Any trade agreement should exist, can exist, for the welfare of the people of every country whose governments sign that agreement," she stresses.

Majot says IATP has compiled its NAFTA research through a new portal on its home page,

Laurie Stern, Public News Service - MN