A History of the Accord

The Tri-National Agricultural Accord represents a longstanding commitment among the senior state and provincial agricultural officials of Canada, the United States, and Mexico to work together collaboratively on agricultural trade and development issues. The current arrangement is rooted in a U.S./Canada exchange dating from 1984. When efforts to expand the U.S./Canada Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to create a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) got underway in the early 1990s, it was decided to invite Mexico to participate in the Accord arrangement. The first trilateral Accord meeting took place in Puerto Vallarta in 1992. Since that year, an annual Accord meeting has rotated among the three countries. The United States hosted the 2002 Accord in Nogales, Arizona. The theme of this conference was the management of border issues.

The trilateral Accord arrangement kept the name of the earlier U.S./Canada arrangement, the "States-Provinces Agricultural Accord," until the Accord meeting in Saskatoon, where references to the "Tri-National Accord" replaced the earlier locution.

Over the years, a variety of mechanisms have been tested to provide continuity to the state/province interface between annual Accord meetings. The current strategy for managing the trilateral interaction is described in the memo "Towards an Improved Accord: A States/Provinces Agriculture and Food Trade Dialogue Mechanism," adopted by the annual Accord Meeting in Salt Lake City in 1999. The core of this strategy is the establishment of three bilateral working groups to define issues that will be addressed during the coming year. Issues of bilateral concern and agreed approaches to working on them are captured in working group work plans that are established at the annual meeting and modified as necessary through the course of the year. The review of activities under the previous year's bilateral work plans and establishment of work plans for the coming year have become the main focus of the annual Accord meeting. Since this dialogue mechanism was adopted, there have been more regular exchanges and ad hoc bilateral and trilateral meetings covering both trade concerns as well as other emerging issues such as biotechnology.

The U.S./Canada Accord Working Group also functions as a formal Provinces-States Advisory Committee (PSAG) to the federal U.S./Canada Consultative Committee on Agriculture, and the U.S./Mexico Working Group is likely to perform that same function with respect to the new U.S./Mexico Consultative Committee on Agriculture. Other regular U.S./Mexican and U.S./Canadian state-to-state and state-to-province exchanges take place under the auspices of the U.S. Border Governors Conference (which has an Agriculture working group), the Gulf States Conference, and through various regional state-provincial and producer-to-producer exchanges along both borders. There are regular exchanges between Texas and its Mexican neighbors, and strong bilateral working relationships between California and Baja California, Arizona and Sonora, and Montana and Alberta. North Dakota and Manitoba have hosted regional meeting of U.S. and Canadian producers from the northern plains.

Practical aspects of the Accord interaction are managed by the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) on behalf of U.S. states and by the Mexican Association of Secretaries of Rural Development (AMSDA) on behalf of the Mexican states. Coordination of Accord work for the Canadian provinces is handled by the Federal-Provincial Agricultural Trade Policy Committee (FPATPC). The FPATPC is made up of trade policy specialists from the provincial agriculture ministries, with coordination provided by an Executive Secretary. The Executive Secretary's position is supported by the federal Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food in Ottawa.