When they predicted downturns in sales to Oregon foreign customers when the North American Free Trade Agreement was enacted, it now appears they were off the mark.
Establishment of the largest free trade area anywhere has helped, in fact, according to Oregon Department of Agriculture trade policy guru Dennis Hannapel.
He sees a four-fold increase in ag exports from Oregon to Canada and Mexico since the NAFTA project was launched two decades ago.
"I believe NAFTA has been an extreme success," he says of the ag export arena. "Trade between the U.S., Canada and Mexico has never been more robust.
"For Oregon, two of our largest international trading partners are directly to the north and south of us. The tariffs between the countries have disappeared and we are openly trading."
U.S. Commerce Department stats show a "tremendous growth" in exports of Oregon to Canada and Mexico in the ag market, notes Hannapel.
NAFTA began to function in 1994.
From 1999 through 2012, the value of Oregon farm trade to Canada increased by 145% from $64 million to $157 million, the figures show. The increase to Mexico was even larger at with a 1,360% growth in the same period, but the overall numbers are smaller with the growth moving form $5 million in 1999 to $73 million last year, according to the Commerce Department numbers.
The export increases is not all due to NAFTA, Hannapel notes. Overall, Oregon exports of ag products to the rest of the world are also up "substantially," but he has no doubt that the trade agreement has provided a smoother pathway of across the border trade for the Beaver State agricultural industry.
NAFTA has become a template trade agreement globally, leading to other free trade programs that are benefiting Oregon and the rest of the nation. One of the big spinoffs, many believe, is the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement.