Clucking over NAFTA

August 31, 1993

NAFTA is good for the citizens of the Eastern Shore. That was the message from the agriculture secretaries representing the tri-state Delmarva Peninsula last week in an attempt to put the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico in proper focus. Propaganda aside, the proposed treaty could mean a big boost in poultry and grain exports for Delmarva farmers.

That translates into prosperity and more jobs for local agriculture. Contrary to the assertions of union and environmental hardliners, NAFTA is likely to provide Maryland and most other states with more jobs, not fewer, and stimulate a growing demand in Mexico for American produce and American-made products.

As Maryland's agriculture secretary, Robert L. Walker, put it, NAFTA is a "win-win situation for Delmarva."

He's got statistics to back up this statement.

The export of manufactured food products from Maryland to Mexico increased 36 percent last year. Overall, exports to Mexico from Maryland rose 20 percent in 1992, to $60 million.

Estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture are that a free-trade agreement would lead to an increase in American corn and soybean exports to Mexico that could be worth an additional $400 million to $500 million. Demand for poultry products could rise a whopping 150 percent. And as the size of Mexico's middle class expands, so should its appetite for many of these agricultural commodities.

With 80 million consumers, Mexico offers a vast, largely untapped market for many American companies. Agricultural exports are especially appealing to Delmarva businessmen eyeing a new trading partner. And as Gov. William Donald Schaefer's July trade mission to Mexico illustrated, there are exciting prospects for a variety of Maryland companies, be they architectural firms, food exporters or manufacturers if NAFTA is approved. But so far, that message hasn't gotten through to most of Maryland's members of Congress. They seem more concerned with assuaging friends in the labor and environmental camps than in looking at the overall impact NAFTA will have on Maryland.

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