The office of Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer announced Thursday afternoon that it would send a letter to President Donald Trump expressing Kansas’ support for the North American Free Trade Agreement — otherwise known as NAFTA — while also backing the administration’s efforts to update and improve the trade pact between the United States, Canada and Mexico in light of technological advances.
According to a press release from the governor’s office, the letter highlights the importance of NAFTA to Kansas, supporting over 120,000 jobs dependent on trade with Canada and Mexico and accounting for more than one-third of the state’s total exports. The letter’s signatories include Colyer; Lieutenant Governor Tracey Mann; the Kansas Chamber of Commerce; the Kansas Farm Bureau and more than 40 other business and agriculture associations and companies.
Colyer’s office states that with an economy dependent on agriculture, oil and gas, manufacturing and service industries, Kansas would be disproportionately affected were the deal to be scrapped.
The letter comes on the heels of Colyer’s conversation earlier today with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue. During that discussion, Colyer reiterated the importance to the state’s economy of unobstructed access to markets for Kansas’ agricultural products.
“Our state is heavily dependent on the agricultural and manufacturing industries and we would experience a devastating impact if NAFTA were to go away, placing our most vital industries at risk to their global competitors,” Colyer stated. “As NAFTA renegotiations continue, I am hopeful that the administration will reach an agreement that modernizes this crucial trade pact and creates an environment that enables Kansas agriculture and manufacturing to thrive.”
Lt. Governor Tracy Mann added, “Governor Colyer has a clear vision for Kansas, and that vision includes increased trade opportunities for our state’s manufacturers and agricultural producers. I come from an agricultural background growing up in Quinter, so I understand how important international trade agreements are to make sure we keep commodity prices as high as possible for our farmers and ranchers across the state. I applaud Governor Colyer’s leadership, and I am eager to continue advocating for Kansas businesses, manufacturers, and agricultural producers.”
NAFTA has improved infrastructure and processes such that Kansas now exports products to Canada and Mexico to the tune of $3.65 billion annually. Canada is currently the second largest international importer of goods from Kansas, with an annual impact of over $1.8 billion, 17% of that coming from agriculture. Nationwide, exports from U.S. manufacturers to Canada and Mexico have risen significantly since the implementation of NAFTA, reaching a total of $446 billion in 2016, up from just $129 billion in 1993.
The president of Kansas Farm Bureau, Rich Felts, stated, “The Kansas Farm Bureau seeks to strengthen agriculture and grow the Kansas economy. NAFTA and other trade agreements help do just that by providing market access for our raw commodities and our value added agricultural products. We stand alongside Governor Colyer and the entire Kansas federal delegation encouraging the Trump Administration to support Kansas farmers and ranchers who are responsible for more than 45% of our state’s economy. Agricultural producers rely on foreign markets such as Canada and Mexico who purchase our bountiful harvests of wheat, corn, soybeans and sorghum as well as livestock.”
Alan Cobb, President and CEO of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce also joined the effort to advocate for Kansas interests, stating, “Exports of Kansas made and grown products play a vital role in our state’s economy. That is why renegotiating NAFTA is a top priority for the Kansas Chamber and its members. We look forward to working with Governor Colyer and President Trump to ensure Kansas exports grow under a renewed NAFTA.”
Matt Teagarden, CEO of the Kansas Livestock Association, added, “Kansas livestock producers certainly recognize the importance of trade to agriculture. Last year, export markets added $286 in value to each head of cattle. Mexico and Canada both were top five destinations for U.S. beef products last year, totaling more than $1.75 billion in value. KLA members appreciate Gov. Colyer emphasizing the importance of maintaining access to these markets while NAFTA is upgraded and improved.”