Speech for Minister MacAulay, 99th Annual American Farm Bureau Federation Convention


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Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center
Nashville, Tennesee,
January 7, 2018, 10:30am

10 minutes

  • Thank you, [Zippy], and good morning to all of you.
  • I’m pleased to bring greetings on behalf of the Government of Canada to:
    • farmers from across the United States; and
    • our friends from agri-business and government.
  • And it’s great to be here in Nashville.
  • I’m honoured to be the first-ever Canadian Agriculture Minister to address this group.
  • This is an organization with a long and proud history of almost a century.
  • You truly are the voice of agriculture here in the United States.
  • And that voice is needed -- today more than ever.
  • I want to thank the American Farm Bureau for reaching out to your partners across North America.
  • It’s also great to see some of your regional organizations coming up to Canada to share their hopes, challenges and ideas with our Canadian farmers.
  • As Canada’s Agriculture Minister over the past two years, I’ve had the privilege of meeting farmers and officials from across the Union.
  • I’ve been to Georgia, home of Zippy Duvall and Sonny Perdue.
  • It’s a beautiful state.
  • Secretary Perdue and I have a great rapport.
  • When farmers get together – as we are today – we understand each other and we can relate to each other.
  • So my message to you here in Nashville this morning is this:
  • The Government of Canada is committed to working with you to strengthen the Canada-U.S. relationship -- for the good of our people, our businesses and our economies.
  • This morning, I want to briefly touch on three key areas that are vital to strengthening the relationship between our two countries:
    • First, growing our trade and our economies;
    • Second, the importance of NAFTA; and
    • Third, building on our common interests.

1. Growing trade and the economy

  • I have said this before and I have no doubt I will say it again: No two nations depend more on each other for their prosperity and security than the United States and Canada.
  • Today, our ties are more vital than ever.
  • The Canada-U.S. relationship is strategic, important, and highly beneficial to the working families of both of our great nations.
  • Our friendship plays out on so many levels: federal, state, provincial, industry, academic, family, cultural – and agricultural.
  • Almost two-thirds of states count Canada as their Number One export market – including this great state of Tennessee.
  • The U.S. currently has an overall trade surplus with Canada, in goods and services, of nearly 8 billion US dollars.
  • And our agricultural sectors are more integrated than ever before.
  • That makes us more competitive here in North America and around the world.
  • Last year, more than $47 billion in agriculture and food products crossed our borders.
  • That includes more than $600 million right here in Tennessee.
  • Of course Canada also sends you some pretty good country singers and hockey players!
  • There’s Shania Twain and Dean Brody and many others on the country scene.
  • And our very own Mike Fisher came from Ottawa to play hockey in Nashville. And he just happens to be married to country star Carrie Underwood!
  • Here in Tennessee, trade and investment ties with Canada support more than 170,000 jobs.
  • In fact, across the United States, some nine million jobs depend on trade and investment with Canada.
  • I come from Prince Edward Island, on Canada’s east coast.
  • PEI is Canada’s smallest province.
  • But our bilateral trade in agriculture with the United States is more than a quarter of a billion dollars every year.
  • Now I’ve thrown a lot of numbers around.
  • But the bottom line is this: if we grow our trade relationship, we will grow our economies…together. And we certainly have it in our collective power to do that.
  • But we need to ensure that this trading relationship remains healthy – which means, of mutual benefit.
  • After all, mutual benefit is the very essence of trade. It always has been.
  • Trade is about people.
  • It’s about creating growth, jobs, spurring innovation and ultimately, prosperity for families and communities.

2. Importance of NAFTA

  • Well, that is exactly what the North American Free Trade Agreement has done for our industry and our continent, over the past 23 years. 
  • The NAFTA zone is now the largest economic area in the world.
  • Since 1994, trade among the NAFTA partners has tripled.
  • And here in the U.S. – agriculture and food exports to Canada and Mexico have quadrupled in that time.
  • Any barriers to the huge volume of trade and investment between us…
  • …Any attempt to disrupt the supply chains on this continent…
  • …would hurt our economies and the livelihoods of our citizens.
  • You know as well as I do -- that neither of our countries can afford to roll back almost a quarter-century of partnership and collaboration in North America.
  • A recent study found that without NAFTA, trade within North America would drop by 100-billion US dollars in the next six years. 
  • That’s a drop of about 10 per cent.
  • The American Farm Bureau knows how vital NAFTA is to our industry.
  • The industry is mobilized and you are using every tool possible to deliver the message.
  • I note that 80 U.S. food and agriculture groups have written to Secretary Ross.
  • They warned that a U.S. withdrawal from NAFTA would cause “immediate, substantial harm” to their industry, on the order of 50,000 jobs.
  • The Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, has said that, for the agricultural sector -- “nothing is more important than trade.”
  • As Senator Pat Roberts and many others have said: “we need to have a unified message for NAFTA … do no harm.”
  • Can NAFTA be improved, updated and modernized?
  • Of course it can.
  • As Zippy has said, NAFTA needs to be updated – just like that old tractor in the shed.
  • But we want that old tractor running even better than before, and long into the future. We don’t want to break it.
  • NAFTA has been improved a dozen times over the past quarter century.
  • And just like any long-term partnership, it needs to evolve and deepen.
  • We want to make a good thing even better.
  • The sixth round of NAFTA talks is coming up in Montreal in a couple of weeks.
  • Canada is fully engaged in this process.
  • I have met with my friends Secretaries Calzada and Perdue on several occasions.
  • Secretary Calzada and I visited in Mexico City last month.
  • The three of us are united in our support of a strong and integrated agriculture and food sector across North America.
  • I have heard this message in Georgia.
  • I’ve heard it in Idaho.
  • In Oregon.
  • In Louisiana.
  • In Mexico City.
  • And let me tell you, I am hearing it in Nashville.
  • My job — OUR job -- is clear.
  • We must continue to ensure that North America remains a major building block of our shared economic prosperity.

3. Building on common interest

  • So based on all of that, how can we build on our common interest and form a better, more prosperous, more effective trade partnership?
  • The answer is simple: by continuing to work together, as we are doing here today.
  • The closer we work together – the more competitive we become around the world.
  • And that helps us all.
  • It helps our farmers, it helps our economies, and most importantly, it helps our people.
  • Of course, there will be challenges. No friendship is without them from time to time.
  • But we talk them over and get through them, as friends do.
  • The more we work together to address our common challenges, the stronger we will be.
  • All of us agree that if we are to maximize the benefits of trade for our economies – our trade must be based in science and innovation.
  • We need to work smarter, to make North America an even stronger, more competitive agricultural market.
  • We need to co-operate more on regulations.
  • We are already making progress through the Canada-U.S. Regulatory Cooperation Council.
  • By cutting red tape, we can cut costs and improve efficiency for our sectors across North America.
  • That will make us all better off.


  • Looking ahead, the prospects for agriculture and food in Canada and the United States are very bright indeed.
  • Your presence here in Nashville today speaks to your optimism about the future of our trading relationship.
  • The world’s demand for food is growing.
  • Our nations can meet that demand, with our world-class producers and high-quality food.
  • Trade can -- and should -- continue to be the engine of growth and prosperity for our three nations.
  • When innovators on both sides of a border are free to produce and sell their products to each other, and to customers around the world -- everyone wins.
  • So let’s keep meeting like this.
  • Let’s keep talking.
  • And let’s keep exploring new ways to strengthen our great and extraordinarily productive partnership.
  • As Prime Minister Trudeau said to the State Governors last summer in Rhode Island:
  • “Let us keep talking as neighbours and friends should.
  • “And let’s keep making history together. “
  • My friends, I thank you very much.
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