The U.S. National Potato Council is calling for action in any upcoming NAFTA renegotiations.
In a letter to President Donald Trump, John Keeling, NPC’s CEO, said the group “… is strongly supportive of improving the conditions for trade that we confront with Canada and Mexico.”
He also noted that the two countries represent important markets for U.S. producers. Canada is the second-largest export market with annual sales of US$315 million or 17.8 per cent of U.S. exports. Mexico comes in third with annual sales of US$253 annual, equalling 14.3 per cent of annual U.S. exports.
“The potato industry believes that potato exports to Mexico could grow to US$500 million annually with full unrestricted access for all U.S. fresh and processed potatoes,” Keeling said, noting that sales to Canada would also rise, but didn’t specify by how much.
The group did however, caution against an outright withdrawal from the deal, saying tariffs, which are currently non-existent on potatoes, would revert to between 50 and 70 per cent, the standard level for “most favoured nation” trading partners.
Also of interest to Canadian growers is a call to address “long-standing antidumping actions in British Columbia.”
In the letter the NPC stated that the decisions needed to be based on “solid economic analysis” performed by neutral third parties.
Keeling also said the Canadian system of “ministerial exemption” restricts free commerce for potatoes based on what he called unnecessary requirements to demonstrate a shortage of domestic product before U.S. product is allowed to enter any province.
Another improvement that NPC supports is an enhanced phytosanitary policy to reduce the use of unscientific pest and disease issues as non-tariff barriers. Such an improvement would eliminate burdens that have blocked fresh potato exports to Mexico for over a decade, their media release noted.
“The potato industry stands ready to work with the administration and Congress in pursuing these improvements for NAFTA, along with any future bilateral or multilateral agreements that may benefit our producers,” Keeling said in the release.