Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried voiced opposition Monday to President Donald Trump’s revamped trade deal with Canada and Mexico as Vice President Mike Pence was in Jacksonville urging approval of the deal.
In a statement, Fried, a Democrat, said the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement fails to address dumping of crops that harms Florida farmers. “In a state that depends on agriculture, we can’t afford a trade agreement that allows Mexico to continue dumping artificially low-priced seasonal crops into our country,” Fried said in the statement. “Mexico’s unfair trade practices and lower safety standards and labor costs are putting Florida’s seasonal crop growers at risk.”
The reworked trade deal with Mexico and Canada was announced at the end of September but still needs congressional approval. Crop dumping has been an issue with Florida’s agriculture industry since the North American Free Trade Agreement was first approved 25 years ago.
Small farmers of tangelos, tangerines, strawberries, watermelon, snap beans and peppers in Florida have long argued the free-trade aspects of NAFTA have required them to fight low-priced competition from Mexico and Central and South American countries.
Pence was in Jacksonville on Monday for the first of a 26-city tour promoting the need for Congress to ratify the trade deal to replace NAFTA. The tour, put on by the nonprofit group America First Policies to promote Trump’s agenda, comes as the president has lifted tariffs on Canadian and Mexican aluminum and steel.
The move to lift the tariffs is intended to make it easier for Congress to support the rewritten trade deal. Fried who was in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, said she encouraged members of Florida’s congressional delegation not to support the revised pact until seasonal crop growers in Florida get protections.
“If the Trump administration wants to put America first, they should put Florida’s farmers first, and help them compete on a level playing field,” Fried said. “Until that happens, this new deal isn’t anything new — just a worsening of 25 years of NAFTA’s failures.”
Fried’s statement echoed former Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a Republican, who throughout his eight years in the state office decried NAFTA.