In remarks in Rogers today, Gov. Asa Hutchinson plugged the benefits of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which puts him somewhat at odds with the Republican Party’s nominal leader, Donald Trump.

Hutchinson cited the benefits to Arkansas farmers from free trade with Canada and Mexico — not only jobs in Arkansas but fresh fruit and vegetables from Mexico year-round.


From a release about a gathering of business people at World Trade Center Arkansas:

“As the United States considers the future of NAFTA, the nation must be careful that it does not harm global trade,” said Governor Asa Hutchinson. “Arkansas must be able to continue its access to North American markets unimpeded by unfair trade barriers. Otherwise, there will be serious harm to Arkansas’s agriculture and retail and manufacturing sectors.”

Jeff Lindsey, an Elkins, Ark., turkey grower whose Double L Farms supplies turkeys to Cargill, voiced his concern at today’s event.

“Farming requires a lot of hard work every single day, but I love what I do,” Lindsey said. “Thanks to NAFTA, Mexico has become the No. 1 export market for U.S. turkey products, taking delivery of more than half of all our turkey exports. If the U.S. were to walk away from NAFTA, the price of those products would take a serious hit, and my family’s farming operation would be hard-pressed to absorb the economic consequences that would bring.”

Continued cross-border trade has proven to be very important to local farmers and businesses. As President Trump considers trade agreements and works toward fairness and modernization of the pact, the administration must be mindful of the basic principle that we do no harm to our global trading relationships. It is clear that there is great potential for harm in Arkansas, especially to our farmers, if the United States reverses course regarding cross-border trade.

Tyson and Walmart officials joined those praising the benefits of the trade agreement.


Trump has repeatedly talked of withdrawing from NAFTA without major changes, though commentators have also noted that what Trump says can change day to day, or even hour by hour, on this and most other subjects. His advisers are pressing for retention of the agreement. Indeed, some columnists have suggested that Sen. Tom Cotton lied for the president about his “shithole” remark in part to maintain his role as an influencer of Trump. Cotton is a free trader, but he’s said NAFTA could be improved, particularly to help poultry producers.