Van Andel Global Trade Center

The Fruits Of Free Trade: How NAFTA Revamped The American Diet

Date: January 30, 2014

by Ted Robbins - NPR

Walk through the produce section of your supermarket and you'll see things you'd never have seen years ago — like fresh raspberries or green beans in the dead of winter.

Much of that produce comes from Mexico, and it's the result of the North American Free Trade Agreement — NAFTA — which took effect 20 years ago this month.

In the years since, NAFTA radically changed the way we get our fruits and vegetables. For starters, the volume of produce from Mexico to the U.S. has tripled since 1994.

There are several reasons why, explains Jaime Chamberlain, president of J-C Distributing Inc., a large produce importer and distributorship in Nogales, Ariz.

First, NAFTA eliminated tariffs. Cantaloupes, for instance, used to have a 35 percent tax on them when they crossed the border. No tariffs meant lower prices.

Second, NAFTA encouraged investment. So companies like Chamberlain's have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Mexican farms. That has helped create year-round supply and demand for U.S. and Canadian customers.

"Twenty years ago, in tomato items alone, you did not have 365-day distribution from Mexico to the United States," he says. "And now ... every single day of the year, you will find Mexican tomatoes in the U.S. market."  Read More.

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