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Smith Tells ITC that NAFTA is Working but Problems Exist and must be Addressed, Chairman Testifies

While problems exist and must be corrected, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is nonetheless working very well for American agriculture, Congressman Bob Smith (R-OR), Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, told the International Trade Commission (ITC) in testimony today.

Smith, who has made reducing trade barriers and encouraging exports of U.S. farm products the highest priority for the Agriculture Committee in the 105th Congress, has led several trade missions abroad, including visits to Chile, Argentina, Canada, and Mexico, and will soon lead a delegation to the Philippines and Thailand.

"American farmers and ranchers, the most productive in the world, can prosper only where there is free and fair world trade. In fact, if not for agriculture exports, the United States trade deficit would be larger than it currently is. In 1996, U.S. agriculture exports totaled $60 billion and the agriculture trade surplus exceeded $26 billion. There is, nevertheless, ample opportunity for expansion of agriculture trade. One of the means by which such opportunities can be secured is through trade agreements," Smith said.

"NAFTA was designed to open markets, reduce tariffs, eliminate barriers to trade and increase the economic strength of the United States, Mexico, and Canada. NAFTA has been good for U.S. agricultural trade. It is not perfect; there are problems with access and barriers that must be resolved," Smith testified.

"But one good example of the value of NAFTA is that our agriculture exports to Mexico rebounded to a record level the year following Mexico's economic crisis. It was, in part, because of NAFTA that the immediate impact on U.S. exports to Mexico was lessened and it was because of NAFTA that one year later record levels of U.S. agriculture exports went to Mexico. Because of preferential access for U.S. products under NAFTA, the initial blow of the economic crisis fell on other countries that compete in the Mexican market," Smith testified.

"I support free and fair trade agreements. U.S. agriculture can succeed under those agreements. I also believe the Administration, any Administration, must be vigilant about the monitoring of the implementation of NAFTA and other trade agreements by other countries. The goal should be to secure fair treatment for American commodities through NAFTA," Smith said.

Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District, which includes most of eastern, southern, and central Oregon, in the U.S. House of Representatives.