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CDFA DIRECTOR SAYS NAFTA AN OPPORTUNITY FOR AGRICULTURE

 SACRAMENTO, Calif., March 23 /PRNewswire/ -- Testifying before a State Assembly committee, the director of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), Henry Voss, said the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada will benefit California's agriculture industry.
 In comments to the Assembly Committee on Utilities and Commerce, Voss said it appears the agreement will promote growth of Mexico as one of California agriculture's fastest-emerging export markets. Although California's agriculture industry led the nation in farm exports in 1991, topping $4.66 billion, only about one percent of that went to Mexico.
 Voss said he recognizes NAFTA inevitably will increase import competition from Mexico, but said the accord contains several provisions, including longer phase-in periods and safeguards for import-sensitive industries, to minimize injury from imports.
 In commenting on the positive aspects of NAFTA, Voss said the proposed agreement would reduce unfair quarantines, ensures that NAFTA will not be used to lower health and safety standards in California, and enables the state to maintain its high standards of agricultural products.
 On labor issues, Voss recognized the importance of the five-year plan in which the United States and Mexico will cooperate to strengthen workers' rights, occupational health and safety standards, and child labor laws in Mexico. Said Voss, "California agriculture believes Mexican industries should have to comply with labor standards comparable to those in the United States. The state's industry also seeks the continued availability of a steady and regulated supply of labor from Mexico to help meet its needs for seasonal workers."
 Voss said the success of any agreement hinges on its enforcement provisions. Negotiators have proposed several mechanisms, including bilateral and trilateral committees to handle disputes. "The proposals appear sound, but will only be effective if each government invests the resources and political will to make them work."
 Voss concluded his statement by saying, "... the debate on NAFTA is not merely a discussion for or against trade with our North American neighbors. The economies of Mexico, Canada and the United States are already far too integrated for that approach. Instead, NAFTA gives us the opportunity to shape the future of our economic integration."
 -0- 3/23/93
 /CONTACT: Carl DeWing, communications officer of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, 916-654-0462/


CO: California Department of Food and Agriculture ST: California IN: AGR SU:

TM-MC -- SF001 -- 8625 03/23/93 11:19 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Mar 23, 1993
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