In the days since President Donald Trump announced his administration had negotiated a new trade agreement with Mexico that he hopes will modify or replace NAFTA, Florida farmers and politicians have sent up red flags.
Strawberry, pepper and tomato farmers, who’ve sparred with their Mexican counterparts over winter imports for years, argued that the deal does little or nothing to stop Mexican farmers from flooding the U.S. market with below-cost produce. U.S. senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson quickly warned that the agreement needs to better protect the state’s agricultural industry, and state Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam said Trump’s newly negotiated agreement “wasn’t quite the deal we hoped it would be” in Florida.
So, how does Florida Gov. Rick Scott feel about the agreement?
The Miami Herald wanted to find out, and asked the governor for his opinion on the new trade agreement Saturday during a Scott visit to Doral, where a slew of Puerto Rican officials, including former Gov. Luis Fortuño, were gathered to endorse his candidacy for the U.S. Senate against Nelson.
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Here’s what Scott had to say:
“I want more trade. We have 15 seaports, we’ve invested $1.4 billion in our ports and added over 300,000 trade jobs. I want to make sure we continue to get trade. As the Trump administration has been dealing with trade around the country, what I’ve been doing is, as it impacts Florida businesses, I’ve been talking to Bob Lighthizer, who’s the federal trade representative, and letting him know the importance of free trade and how it’s impacting Florida businesses,” Scott said. “My goal would be if we can get fewer tariffs I think Americans should win.”
Scott’s campaign cut off questions at that point, saying that the governor was running behind schedule. Scott didn’t respond when asked anyway about whether the agreement protects Florida’s farmers.
Later in the day, campaign spokeswoman Lauren Schenone offered the following statement when asked for the governor’s position on whether the new trade agreement protects Florida’s farmers from “dumping” by Mexican growers:
“Governor Scott has been clear — he supports free and open trade with the world. As long as other countries levy tariffs on U.S. produced goods, we must also have the ability to do the same to ensure fairness to American companies and workers. The governor believes the real, long term solution to these issues is to reduce our regulatory and tax burden in order to better compete with the global market and employ all tools at our disposal to make sure we’re protecting the interests of the U.S. economy. This is an issue the Governor will continue discussing with the Administration to ensure Florida companies are treated fairly.”
Trump will need congressional approval to replace or change the details of NAFTA, the 1994 trade pact crafted by then-President Bill Clinton between Mexico, the U.S. and Canada. Trump announced a new deal with Mexico on Monday, and on Friday formally notified Congress that he intended to execute a new agreement in 90 days after talks broke down with Canadian officials.
The trade agreement is expansive, including the automotive and pharmaceuticals industries, and it is complicated. Farmers in California, for example, have different problems and needs than farmers in Florida. Congress, meanwhile, has met the deal with some skepticism.
President Trump on Saturday tweeted that if Congress won’t work with him, he’ll simply shred the entire trade agreement.
“Congress should not interfere w/ these negotiations,” Trump tweeted Saturday afternoon, “or I will simply terminate NAFTA entirely & we will be far better off...”