ATLANTA, GEORGIA, U.S. — Following U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) the agriculture representatives from the United States, Canada and Mexico met for trilateral ag meetings.

NAFTA is a multi-layer free trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico that came into effect in 1994. It was designed to remove tariff barriers and facilitate the cross-border movement of goods and services among the three countries. There has been controversy over the effectiveness of the agreement in ongoing discussions of potential renegotiations.

Lawrence MacAulay, Canadian Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Jose Calzada, Mexican Secretary of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food, and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue met in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., to discuss commitments to trade relationships and keeping open and transparent markets.

 “The North American Free Trade Agreement has greatly helped our respective agricultural sectors as well as our consumers who have benefitted from an ever-growing variety of safe, affordable food products all year around,” all three ag representatives said in a joint statement. “While even the best trading partnerships face challenges from time to time, our agricultural differences are relatively few in the context of the $85 billion in agricultural trade that flows between our three nations each year.”

All three representatives support the continued relationships between the countries and to improve on them as well.

“Over the years, the United States, Mexico and Canada have also worked collaboratively to protect plant and animal health, conduct joint research, and share best practices,” the representatives said. “These efforts have helped to eradicate several pests and diseases from the region, differentiating us from the rest of the world. Our three countries remain committed to continued collaboration to ensure a safe and reliable regional supply chain that makes the North American agriculture sector more competitive.”

Since the announcement the USTR has reached out for public comment on the renegotiation. Many grain groups have expressed support for modernizing the agreement.

Both the American Soybean Association (ASA) and the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) submitted comments urging focus on maintaining strong trade relationships and strengthening sanitary and phytosanitary regulations.

The ASA cited in its comments the dramatic growth of the Canadian and Mexican markets for U.S. soybeans — and for American agricultural products overall — since the implementation of NAFTA in 1993. In 2015, the United States exported $438 million in soy products to Canada, a 220% increase from the $199 million sold in 1987. Soy exports to Mexico in 2015 totaled $2.44 billion, nearly 500% greater than the $489 million sold in 1993.

The AFIA also noted the positivity in maintaining the trilateral trade relationships.

“Our priority is preserving the existing components of the NAFTA agreement that benefit the U.S. animal food industry, while looking for ways to improve this important trilateral agreement,” said Joel G. Newman, president and chief executive officer of the AFIA in comments to the USTR. “Since NAFTA was implemented in 1994, animal food exports to Canada and Mexico have almost tripled, growing from $725 million in 1994 to $2.7 billion in 2016.”