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Utah Business, Agriculture Leaders Hopeful For New US-Mexico Trade Deal

Residential construction in Utah mountains. / aelawrence
Tarrifs on steel and lumber imported from Mexico and Canada have exacerbated Utah's afforble housing shortage.

Utah business leaders are hopeful about a new trade deal between the U.S. and Mexico.

After months of strained trade relations, President Trump announced Monday the handshake deal with Mexico would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), though a deal with Canada has not yet been worked out.

"It's important and really heartening that we're seeing less talk about tariffs and more talk about trade agreements," said Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce President Derek Miller. "Unfortunately, many of those tariffs are already in place."

Canada and Mexico are two of Utah's top five trading partners. Utah farmers and ranchers exported about $180 million in food and agriculture products to the two countries in 2017, according to the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.

The state is also on the verge of a housing affordability crisis, Miller said, that has been exacerbated by tariffs on steel and lumber imported from Mexico and Canada.

"My hope is that with the new trade agreement in place, we won't have a need for those tariffs," he said.

NAFTA was first established in 1994 and overdue for a renegotiation, Miller said.

"E-commerce didn't exist," when NAFTA was created, he said, and is now a growing part of Utah's economy.

In a statement, Utah Agriculture Commissioner LuAnn Adams called the trade deal a "big step forward."

"Utah's farmers and ranchers are eager to see this momentum continue," she said.

"I hope that today's announcement will pave the way for Canada to re-enter the negotiations soon so we can have a true North American Free Trade Agreement once more."

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