Wary of Protectionism, U.S. Agriculture Wages Charm Offensive to Save Mexican Exports

3/23/2017 Foreign Policy

produceAmerican food producers are turning into diplomats, flying to Mexico to bolster decades-old business relationships now fraying under the protectionist trade shift in Washington.

The Trump administration’s plan to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement has thrown a cloud of uncertainty over the trade terms that have underpinned Mexico’s growth for the past two decades and made it the third-largest export market for American farmers.

As buyers and the Mexican government start to look at getting their food from countries other than the United States, several U.S. industry officials have headed south of the border in recent weeks to reassure them that Mexico is still a valued customer.

U.S. food producers have noticed a chill in their conversations with longtime customers, and some are seeing their sales to Mexico stall, according to industry officials. Meanwhile, buyers are telling their U.S. suppliers that they are exploring new sources of grains, corn, dairy products, and meat for fear that Mexico will revive tariffs on agricultural products that went to zero after NAFTA.

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