On June 12, the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) submitted comments to the Office of the United States Trade Representative regarding the modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). "Any negotiated changes to the NAFTA should do no harm," underscored ASTA President & CEO Andy LaVigne. "U.S. agriculture has prospered under this agreement and the U.S. seed industry cannot afford to have trade with Canadian and Mexican markets hindered."

NAFTA is fundamentally sound. However, since the agreement was negotiated and signed over two decades ago, there are a number of areas for potential improvement. ASTA outlined the following three priorities for the renegotiation of NAFTA.

  1. Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures: Trade should not be disrupted by non-tariff trade barriers. Each Party should follow the International Standard for Phytosanitary Measures for Seed (ISPMS 38).  
  2. Intellectual Property Rights (IPR): Respect for IPR and the ability to enforce one's IPR are critical prerequisites for a seed company to conduct business. Any renegotiation should require Mexico to join UPOV 1991. Furthermore, ASTA supports language that grants the legal means to prevent the unlawful disclosure of trade secrets.  
  3. Regulatory Cooperation: Regulatory cooperation should be encouraged among all NAFTA Parties to prevent trade barriers due to non-harmonized regulations. There are several mechanisms used by NAFTA countries which could serve as models moving forward.