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 RICHMOND, Va., Aug. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services issued the following:
 The secretaries of agriculture of the states of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia have all announced their support for the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. If approved, the agreement will create the world's largest free trade zone, stretching from Canada to Mexico, and encompassing 370 million people.
 American products have already made great inroads into the Mexican market. Since the liberalization of Mexico's trade policy in 1986, the United States has seen a $5.7 billion trade deficit with Mexico transform into a $5.4 billion trade surplus. An estimated 700,000 American jobs now exist in part because of exports to Mexico. NAFTA will add about 200,000 more jobs to this total by 1995.
 Mexico is an increasingly important destination for U.S. agricultural produce. It is already the third largest market for American agricultural goods. In Maryland alone, exports of manufactured food products to Mexico increased by 36 percent from 1991-92. Mexico's population, which is rising annually at a rate of 2 percent, is a fast- growing market for U.S. poultry, one of the DELMARVA region's strongest commodities.
 All this is in spite of substantial tariffs which remain imposed on food products to Mexico. Duties of 14-20 percent persist for imports of numerous goods, such as grain sorghum, brown rice and soybeans. Poultry products, among others, suffer a 10 percent import charge.
 NAFTA will eventually eliminate these tariffs and immediately remove import licensing restrictions, American agricultural produce will become even more competitive in the Mexican market, heralding greater profits and more jobs for American agriculture. As a result of NAFTA, dairy industry revenues will rise by about $250 million annually, at present prices. Oilseeds exports (including soybeans) are expected to increase by 20 percent under NAFTA; soybean meal exports will rise by about 12 percent. U.S. exports of corn to Mexico will likely reach the level of 6 million metric tons under NAFTA, almost 70 percent higher than the level without such an agreement.
 By the end of the transition period for NAFTA's implementation, revenues for coarse grain are likely to increase by $400 to $500 million. Poultry products are likely to fare even better, with some sources estimating a 150 percent jump in sales.
 The states of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia are strong producers in all these areas. NAFTA will bring significant benefits to their agricultural sectors and to their entire economies. The potential for an expanded Mexican market is good news for the farmers of the region.
 "This is a win-win situation for DELMARVA," said Robert L. Walker, secretary of agriculture for the state of Maryland.
 "NAFTA means a much broader market for American produce. Broader markets will encourage increased production and profits, and these translate into jobs," said Walker.
 "Our three states have substantial apple crops and often limited markets," said John F. Tarburton, secretary of agriculture in Delaware.
 "It is my understanding that Washington state sold 7 million boxes of apples in Mexico last year. What an exciting new market this is going to be over the next decade. NAFTA will offer some exciting new opportunities for all of agriculture, DELMARVA included," said Tarburton.
 Clinton V. Turner, commissioner of agriculture for the state of Virginia, was equally sanguine about the agreement.
 "A ratified NAFTA will lead to positive economic growth for all three countries. It would seem only logical that this increase in demand for goods and services be supplied first among the trading partners. As the full impact of NAFTA is realized and with America's agricultural product efficiency, I would expect the United States, in general, and Virginia, particularly, to benefit from a ratified NAFTA," Turner said.
 While the North American Free Trade Agreement may not herald the same good news for all sectors of the U.S. economy, it is unquestionably a positive step forward for most farmers and food businesses. This is true throughout the country and especially so in the DELMARVA region. The ratification of NAFTA will signal a significant victory for American agricultural exports.
 -0- 8/27/93
 /CONTACT: Toni Radler (print), 804-786-7686, or Elaine Lidholm (broadcast), 804-371-8579, both of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services/

CO: Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services ST: Delaware, Maryland, Virginia IN: AGR SU: ECO EXE

KD-DC -- DC023 -- 6699 08/27/93 14:59 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Aug 27, 1993

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