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Viva Fresh session to explore NAFTA challenges and opportunities

Viva Fresh has added a session focused on U.S. trade policy to the agenda of the upcoming Viva Fresh Produce Expo. The session will feature experts discussing the effects, both positive and negative, of the North American Free Trade Agreement on the region’s produce industry.viva

Foreign trade pacts, including NAFTA, were a hot-button issue in the 2016 presidential election cycle, with now-President Donald Trump promising to renegotiate existing international trade deals.  This stance has provoked uncertainty among members of the Texas International Produce Association, the host of the Viva Fresh Produce Expo, and caused ripples throughout the entire produce industry.

“In an interactive discussion with the audience, the panelists will focus on the big picture of NAFTA and the role of produce in trade and how potential changes to NAFTA could impact the industry as a whole, as well as potential changes to production costs, consumer pricing and supply,” Melinda Goodman, chair for the Viva Fresh Produce Expo educational committee, said in a press release.

The session will be held at the Hilton Austin Hotel at 2 p.m. on Friday, April 21 and will feature the following panelists:

  • Robert Guenther, director of policy and public affairs at the United Fresh Produce Association: Guenther will moderate the discussion and facilitate audience questions. For the last 17 years, Guenther has represented the fresh fruit and vegetable industry before Congress, the administration and regulatory agencies.

  • Luis Ribera, associate professor and extension economist at Texas A&M University: Ribera will provide insight into the complex nature of NAFTA for multiple industries and agriculture.  This will include how the produce industry has evolved since 1993 when NAFTA was signed into law and possible scenarios related to a new trade policy. Ribera is the director of the Center for North American Studies and also serves as the program director for International Projects with the Agricultural & Food Policy Center. He has been an invited speaker in over 250 conferences around the world and has brought more than $22 million in research and extension funding for his programs.

  • Ron Lemaire, president of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association: Lemaire will provide a Canadian perspective on NAFTA. For over 16 years, Lemaire has worked closely with government and regulatory officials to represent the needs and interests of the over 830 international and Canadian members of the CPMA, whose shared goal is to enhance the Canadian market and facilitate trade of fresh fruits and vegetables.

  • Raul Urteaga, general coordinator of international affairs — SAGARPA: Urteaga has vast experience in bilateral trade, including service as a commercial advisor in the NAFTA office in Washington, DC, where he helped facilitate the implementation of NAFTA before existing roles, including work with SENASICA and PROMEXICO. Urteaga will speak to the view of NAFTA from Mexico and how changes in free trade create new challenges and opportunities for business across the border.

"The likelihood of some renegotiation of existing trade deals appears to be imminent," Bret Erickson, president and chief executive officer of the Texas International Produce Association, said in the release. "It's important that we understand the broad context of the challenges and opportunities of NAFTA and prepare a list of requirements which best serves the needs of the entire produce industry as well as US consumers.  We must remain focused on the continued economic success of our growers, shippers, packers, importers, and others who strive to provide US consumers with the safest, most abundant and affordable supply of fresh fruits and vegetables in the world."

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