U.S. Agricultural Exports Lag and Imports Soar During NAFTA-WTO Era

Memo by Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch

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Time and again, U.S. farmers and ranchers have been promised by Republican and Democratic presidents and the American Farm Bureau Federation that the latest trade agreement will help them export their way to wealth. Yet U.S. government data show that export growth of many U.S. farm products to nations with U.S. trade pacts has lagged. But imports from these nations have grown faster than imports from the rest of the world. And for farmers and ranchers, what matters is the trade balance in the products they grow. For many commodities – beef, wheat, fruits, vegetables and more – the net effect has been negative. Import floods have driven down prices U.S. farmers are paid and/or displaced domestic commodities altogether. The data clearly show that the share of Americans’ food that is imported, versus produced here, has increased under these pacts. And contrary to the hype, most U.S. food exports are not sold to the countries with which we have free trade agreements (FTA) – only 43 percent. However, most U.S. food imports do come from those countries: The 20 U.S. FTA partners were the source of 69 percent of all U.S. food imports. Yet, the same false claims are endlessly recycled, regardless of the past outcomes.

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