Perdue calls on Canada to fully engage in NAFTA talks

Perdue calls on Canada to fully engage in NAFTA talks
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

Agriculture Secretary Sonny PerdueGeorge (Sonny) Ervin PerdueUSDA abandons America's schoolchildren USDA takes heat as Democrats seek probe into trade aid Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is designated survivor for 2020 State of the Union MORE on Monday urged Canada to more fully engage in the push to complete an update of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Perdue, who called the upgrade of NAFTA a top priority for the Trump administration, specifically asked Canada to step up and "get in the game" to modernize the 24-year-old three-nation agreement, during remarks to the American Farm Bureau Federation's annual convention in Nashville, Tenn. 

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"To get a deal we need all sides to seriously roll up our sleeves and get to work," Perdue said.

"We have put a number of proposals on the table to modernize NAFTA, and critically for agriculture, to address key sectors left out of the original agreement — dairy and poultry tariffs in Canada," he said.

"Now we want to see our negotiating partners step up and engage so we can get the deal done."

He asked convention attendees to talk to Canada’s Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay "to get our partner to the north to get the deal done for them and for you."

The remarks closely echo those of U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerGOP senator warns quick vote on new NAFTA would be 'huge mistake' Pelosi casts doubt on USMCA deal in 2019 Pelosi sounds hopeful on new NAFTA deal despite tensions with White House MORE, who said in the fall that he was "surprised and disappointed" by the resistance of Mexico and Canada to updating NAFTA. 

Both nations have complained that many of the U.S. proposals put forth early in the talks were non-starters. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump administration eyes proposal to block jet engine sales to China: report Trump takes track to open Daytona 500 Brazile 'extremely dismayed' by Bloomberg record MORE is heading to Nashville, Tenn., on Monday afternoon to appeal to farmers, a key part of his base that propelled him to the White House, with a focus on taxes and deregulation, according to excerpts of his speech released by the White House. 

The president has repeatedly threatened to leave the three-nation deal, which has further escalated tensions among the United States, Mexico and Canada in the trade talks, as well as among U.S. agriculture interests and lawmakers from farming states who are quick to defend the benefits of NAFTA.

MacAulay, who is attending the farm bureau’s meeting, told reporters there that he doesn’t think there is any sense of fear the White House isn't listening to the concerns of NAFTA farmers because they understand how vital the agreement is for their industry, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsKobach says he discussed his Senate bid with Trump Republicans expect Trump to withdraw controversial Fed nominee Celebrating and expanding upon five years of the ABLE  Act MORE (R-Kan.) said recently that Trump “really listened to our concerns” about NAFTA when he met with several farm-state senators last week on Capitol Hill. 

Lighthizer has said that the Trump administration isn’t actively pursuing a withdrawal from NAFTA.

NAFTA negotiations are headed for their sixth round later this month in Montreal.