NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE, U.S. — Lawrence MacAulay, minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, addressing members of the American Farm Bureau Federation at their 99th annual convention in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S. on Jan. 7, extolled the benefits of the U.S.-Canada relationship and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

MacAulay, the first Canadian agriculture minister to address a Farm Bureau convention, said, “The bottom line is this: If we grow our trade relationship, we will grow our economies … together. And we certainly have it in our collective power to do that. But we need to ensure that this trading relationship remains healthy — which means, of mutual benefit. After all, mutual benefit is the very essence of trade. It always has been.

“Trade is about people. It’s about creating growth, jobs, spurring innovation and ultimately prosperity for families and communities. Well, that is exactly what NAFTA has done for our industry and continent during the past 23 years.”

MacAulay pointed out trade between the NAFTA partners — the United States, Canada and Mexico — has tripled since the accord took effect in 1994 and that U.S. agriculture and food exports to Canada and Mexico have quadrupled in that time.

“Any barriers to the huge volume of trade and investment between us, any attempt to disrupt the supply chains on this continent would hurt our economies and the livelihoods of our citizens,” he asserted.

MacAulay acknowledged NAFTA may be improved, updated and modernized.

“As Zippy (Zippy Duvall, president of the Farm Bureau) has said, NAFTA needs to be updated, just like that old tractor in the shed,” he said. “But we want that old tractor running better than before, and long into the future. We’d don’t want to break it.”

MacAulay pointed out the sixth round of NAFTA talks will be held in Montreal on Jan. 23-28.

“My job — our job — is clear,” he said. “We must continue to ensure that North America remains a major building block of our shared economic prosperity.”