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Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Chairman K. Michael Conaway Committee on Agriculture Hearing: Renegotiating NAFTA: Opportunities for Agriculture

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

I want to start by welcoming all of our witnesses. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to share your thoughts with us today.

As we have noted time and again, America’s farmers and ranchers are the most efficient, productive and competitive producers in the world. Their ability to meet the rapidly-growing and ever-changing demands both at home and abroad has allowed our country to become one of the world’s most open agricultural economies, supplying our trading partners with a safe and affordable food and fiber supply.

These trade relationships have become an essential part of the U.S. agricultural industry, and nowhere is trade more important than in our relationship with our neighbors to the north and south.

For more than 20 years, NAFTA has governed trade among our three countries, and in that time has nearly quadrupled U.S. agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico. Both countries have remained essential trading partners for the U.S., accounting for roughly 28 percent of total U.S. agricultural exports in 2016.

While Canada and Mexico regularly are two of our top three export destinations for agricultural products, they also remain the United States’ largest suppliers of agricultural inputs. In 2016, while the U.S. continued to run an overall trade surplus in agriculture, we managed to run a trade imbalance with both Canada and Mexico, totaling over $6 billion.

So, a lot has changed since the 1994 agreement was signed. All three economies are much larger and production agriculture has evolved and improved, growing to meet changing consumer demands and technological advances. And it’s against this backdrop that the Trump administration prepares to renegotiate the terms of NAFTA.

I recognize there is a certain level of angst about renegotiating the terms of our agreement. But let me reiterate, we have no interest in reversing any of production agriculture’s hard-fought gains, and the administration has made clear that it doesn’t either. In fact, the recently-released renegotiation objectives reinforced the importance of maintaining existing reciprocal duty-free market access for agricultural goods.

Whether you’re focused on maintaining current market access or you are eager for the prospects of expanded trade opportunities, production agriculture stands to benefit from a modernized trade agreement with our neighbors to the north and south. As always, we must stay vigilant and all work together to ensure we achieve the best deal possible for American agriculture.

With that, I yield to the ranking member for any opening remarks he would like to make.