Kansas City, Kan. — Both Republican senators in Kansas are expressing concerns that any major changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement could have a negative impact on the state’s economy.
Republican President Donald Trump has been a persistent critic of the U.S.-Canada-Mexico trade agreement. Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran say they’re open to improvements but agree that NAFTA needs to preserve or expand export opportunities.
The U.S., Mexico and Canada are in negotiations to modify the agreement.
Kansas Public Radio reported that Moran said in a December newsletter that while he supports efforts to “modernize and improve” NAFTA, withdrawing from the agreement would hurt farmers and ranchers and cost the state jobs.
Roberts disputed the view that the U.S. economy has not benefited from NAFTA.
“U.S. agriculture has grown because of agreements like NAFTA,” he said. “And from the farmer in the field to the grocer in the store, American workers have benefited from that growth.”
Food and agricultural products are Kansas’ top exports, at more than $3.5 million. Josh Roe, deputy secretary of the Kansas Department of Agriculture, said the two NAFTA trading partners are critical destinations.
“There have certainly been years where Mexico and Canada are No. 1 and No. 2,” Roe said.
Roe said commodity prices are currently low for some products. Upsetting the trade agreement could reduce foreign demand and push prices even lower, he said, which could be “devastating” to the Kansas economy.