As trade representatives prepare for the next round of North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations, Sen. Jon Tester, D-MT, is fighting to provide Montanans a voice in the renegotiation of the nation’s largest trade agreement.
Tester’s Trade Transparency and Public Input Act will force the U.S. Trade Representative to create an online public comment portal to ensure that Montanans can provide their input. Montanans export nearly $600 million in products to Canada annually through NAFTA.
“Montanans whose livelihoods depend on this trade agreement should be able to provide their input throughout the entire process without having to jump through hoops and navigate redtape,” Tester said. “Every day Montana farmers and ranchers, small business owners and manufacturers sell their goods across the Canadian border, and it is critically important that their voice is heard during these negotiations.”
Trade officials from the U.S., Canada and Mexico are scheduled to hold their sixth round of NAFTA negotiations in Montreal.
Montanans who provide public comments on trade negotiations are currently required to do so through notices on the U.S. Federal Register, which are usually buried on the website, difficult to navigate and only intermittently available.
Tester’s bill will require the U.S. Trade Representative to ensure that the portal is easily accessible and readily available to the public, like they are in Canada and Mexico.
Over 40 percent of Montana’s exports are sold to Canada, making it significantly the state’s largest trading partner. In 2016, Montana exported $275 million worth of lentils, malt, grain, livestock and other agriculture products to Canada.
According to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Montana’s total exports have grown by more than 300 percent since 2003.