Canada Day: What Changes in NAFTA Mean for Agriculture in California

The California-Canada economic partnership, ongoing North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) trade talks and what changes in the agreement could mean for agriculture in California were all discussed yesterday at a luncheon co-hosted by the California Chamber of Commerce.

With the support of the Consulates General of Canada of San Francisco and Los Angeles, and the California Farm Bureau Federation, experts convened at the Sutter Club in Sacramento for a thoughtful reflection and discussion.

Canadian Minister of Agriculture  

Lawrence MacAulay, Canadian Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Minister Lawrence MacAulay spoke first, saying he was delighted to be speaking with a group that understands the value of trade. MacAulay addressed three key areas vital to strengthening the relationship between Canada and the United States:

  • Growing trade and economies;
  • Importance of NAFTA;
  • Building on these common interests

“No two countries depend on each other for their prosperity and security more than Canada and the United States of America,” Minister MacAulay said. “Today our ties are even stronger than ever. The relationship is highly strategic, important and highly beneficial to both of our great nations.”

U.S. agricultural exports in North America last year exceeded $38 billion, and Canada is California’s No. 1 ag export destination, receiving $4.1 billion in California exports annually. More than 1 million jobs in California depend on trade with Canada.

Putting these statistics in perspective, Minister MacAulay said this amounts to more than $5 million in trade crossing the border while the group enjoyed lunch.

Minister MacAulay stressed that the United States, Canada and Mexico are becoming more integrated thanks to NAFTA. He used the example of a hamburger: the beef is raised in Alberta, the wheat for the bun is grown in the U.S. and the lettuce and tomato are from Mexico. “This kind of integration makes us more competitive in North America and around the world,” MacAulay said.

Speaking about NAFTA, Minister MacAulay said there is a continued mutual benefit for both countries. “The bottom line is, if we grow our trade together, our relationship and our economies will follow,” he said.

NAFTA has done so many things for all three countries over the last 25 years. “We have the largest economic area in the world,” Minister MacAulay exclaimed. “The most successful economic area, the most prosperous economic area.”

Although there are some areas of NAFTA that can be “tweaked,” all parties must be sure not to “break the wheel,” Minister MacAulay said.

“Our job is clear,” Minister MacAulay said in closing, “trade can and should continue to be an instrument of growth and prosperity for our two nations. When innovators on both sides of the border are free to produce and sell their products to each other and customers around the world, everyone wins.”

California Secretary of Food and Agriculture  

Karen Ross, Secretary of California Department of Food and Agriculture

California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross followed Minister MacAulay, praising everything he said and took a California-centric view of what trade means and how it acts as a bridge.

“It’s not just what trade means to agriculture, and a business,” she said. “We lose sight too easily in this country about what trade means to our local communities, what trade means to diplomacy and building partnerships and resolving difficult issues around the world.”

Secretary Ross lauded NAFTA for everything it has brought to its participants.

“The most successful winners of trade, when we think about agriculture and all the goods that we share around the world are the consumers and the voters,” she said.

In closing, Secretary Ross said that agriculture is not a legacy or historic part of either country, “it is a vibrant, dynamic, critical element to all that is good and prosperous in our future.”

Panel Discussion on Importance of NAFTA 

Jamie Johansson, President, California Farm Bureau Federation

Rana Sarkar, the Consul General of Canada in San Francisco, moderated a discussion with James D. “Jamie” Johansson, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF), and Jane Proctor, vice president of policy and issue management with the Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA).

Both groups reiterated their support for NAFTA and emphasized the importance of integrated supply chains across the continent.

The trading relationship between California and Canada remains strong with $6.3 billion USD in agricultural trade in 2016, including $4.1 billion worth of California agricultural exports to Canada.

“The fresh produce industry is committed to achieving a win-win-win agreement for all three NAFTA countries,” said Proctor. “NAFTA has enabled the free flow of goods across our borders with over $2.5 billion USD worth of fresh produce exported from California to Canada in 2016 and ensures that Canadians have a year-round supply of fresh and affordable produce. We appreciate the strong support shown by Minister Lawrence MacAulay and Canadian negotiators for our industry and all of Canadian agriculture during these negotiations.”

Jane Proctor, Vice President, Policy and Issue Management, Canadian Produce Marketing Association

CFBF President Johansson said, “California agricultural exports support 1 million jobs on farms and in cities, and that number will only increase with higher demand for California-grown products. Trade with Canada and Mexico under NAFTA has generally been positive for California farms, ranches and agricultural businesses. We support ongoing efforts to modernize the agreement for the benefit of farmers, food businesses and consumers in all three nations.”

Both groups pledged to continue working with NAFTA negotiators and legislators on both sides of the border to ensure a successful and reciprocal agreement for industry.

Friends of Canada Reception

At the Friends of Canada reception held in Sacramento at the Leland Stanford Mansion on Wednesday evening, February 21, Kevin Howlett, senior vice president, government relations and regional markets at Air Canada, commented that the airline is significantly involved in the California market. With year-round service to four cities in the state including Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and San Jose, the relationship between Air Canada and California is deep. He also announced that Air Canada will launch two new routes in May: San Francisco to Edmonton and Sacramento to Vancouver.

CalChamber Meeting 

Left to right,  CalChamber Vice President Susanne Stirling, Canadian Ag Minister Lawrence MacAulay, CalChamber President Allan Zaremberg, Canadian Consul General Rana Sarkar

The day prior on Wednesday, February 21, Minister Lawrence MacAulay and Consul General Sarkar met at the CalChamber with Allan Zaremberg, President and CEO, and Susanne Stirling, Vice President, International Affairs to discuss NAFTA.

The CalChamber actively supported the creation of the North America Free Trade Agreement among the United States, Canada and Mexico, comprising 486.9 million people with combined annual trade with the United States being around $1.139 trillion in 2017. In 2017, goods exports totaled over $525.46 billion while goods imports totaled nearly $614.02 billion.

The CalChamber’s long-standing support for NAFTA is based upon an assessment that it serves the employment, trading and environmental interests of California and the United States, as well as, Canada and Mexico, and is beneficial to the business community and society as a whole. Since 1993, trade among the three NAFTA countries has nearly quadrupled.

The CalChamber understands that NAFTA was negotiated more than 25 years ago, and, while our economy and businesses have changed considerably over that period, NAFTA has not. We agree with the premise that the United States should seek to support higher-paying jobs in the United States and to grow the U.S. economy by improving U.S. opportunities under NAFTA.

The provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico have been beneficial for American industries, agricultural enterprises, farmers, ranchers, energy companies and automakers.  Any renegotiation of NAFTA must recognize the gains achieved and ensure that U.S. trade with Canada and Mexico remains strong and without interruption.

Now that the renegotiation process is underway, the California Chamber of Commerce urges a quick and efficient process, and one that does not hinder ongoing trade and investment among the three NAFTA members, who must be kept united in the same end-goal of a successful renegotiation

Speaker Bios

Lawrence MacAulay was appointed the Minister of Agri-Food in 2015 by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Minister MacAulay has been Member of Parliament for Cardigan since 1988. Minister MacAulay’s previous Cabinet appointments have included Solicitor General of Canada, Minister of Labour, Secretary of State (Veterans), and Secretary of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency).

Karen Ross was appointed Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) in 2011 by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. Before joining CDFA, Secretary Ross was chief of staff for U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. She served as president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers from 1996–2009, and as vice president of the Agricultural Council of California from 1989–1996

James D. “Jamie” Johansson was elected president of the California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF) in December 2017. Johansson previously served as first vice president for two years. He is a former chairman of the CFBF Young Farmers and Ranchers State Committee and former vice president of the Butte County Farm Bureau. Johansson served four years on the Oroville City Council, which selected him to serve as vice mayor. His community involvement also includes service on the Oroville Chamber of Commerce Board.

Jane Proctor has more than 32 years’ experience in the produce industry as part of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA) working in marketing, government relations, education, food safety and industry technology. She is the CPMA representative on many international committees and groups examining issues that have an impact on the industry. Proctor has participated in many initiatives domestically, bilaterally (with the U.S.) and internationally and was instrumental in the development of the International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS) and served as its first chair. She currently sits on the IFPS Board, chairs the IFPS Produce ID Committee and represents the industry on various committees.

Rana Sarkar was appointed Consul General of Canada in San Francisco | Silicon Valley in 2017, with accreditation for Northern California and Hawaii. Sarkar previously served as national director for high growth markets and India at KPMG Canada, and co-chairman of the advisory board and a senior fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. He has served as president and CEO of the Canada-India Business Council. In 2011, he was a candidate for the Canadian Parliament. Prior to his candidacy for Parliament, Sarkar co-founded a successful ad agency and served as a visiting lecturer at the London School of Economics.

Staff Contact: Susanne T. Stirling

Susanne T. Stirling
Susanne T. Stirling, senior vice president, international affairs, has headed CalChamber international activities for more than four decades. She is an appointee of the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to the National Export Council, and serves on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce International Policy Committee, the California International Relations Foundation, and the Chile-California Council. Originally from Denmark, she studied at the University of Copenhagen and holds a B.A. in international relations from the University of the Pacific, where she served as a regent from 2012 to 2021. She earned an M.A. from the School of International Relations at the University of Southern California. See full bio.