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Baucus Optimistic About New Trade Deal With Mexico

Max Baucus is co-director of Farmers for Free Trade and a former U.S. senator from Montana, and former U.S. ambassador to China.

President Trump’s announcement of a trade deal with Mexico sounds like good news for Montana farmers. So says former Montana Senator Max Baucus, now co-director of an advocacy group called Farmers for Free Trade.

Baucus says the 25-year-old NAFTA treaty with Mexico and Canada has generally been good for Montana ag producers. He says he doesn’t know the details of the U.S. Mexico agreement that the President today announced would replace NAFTA, but Baucus says a new trade agreement is generally a positive.

"That basically means that, theoretically anyway, the United States has reached an agreement that’s good for the United States, and Mexico has reached an agreement that’s good for Mexico. And if that’s the case, that’s good, because they’ve found an agreement."

Baucus says NAFTA isn’t perfect, but that it has helped the U.S. gain leverage against Canadian subsidies for softwood lumber and grain. He says he doesn’t believe Mexico will sign this new agreement with the U.S. unless Canada is on board, too, and that he’s not worried about the president enacting something that could harm the U.S.

"There has to be a reasonable accommodation among all three countries, and I think that will happen," Baucus says. "And, frankly, Congress is not going to agree to a trade agreement that is not beneficial to the United States."

Baucus’ organization, Farmers For Free Trade has been much more critical of President Trump’s tariff’s on Chinese goods, which have led to Chinese counter-tariffs on U.S. food products. He agrees that China’s trade policies have long been unfair to the U.S., but says Trump would be better off working with a coalition of international partners to get China to change than imposing unilateral tariffs.

Eric Whitney is NPR's Mountain West/Great Plains Bureau Chief, and was the former news director for Montana Public Radio.
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