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Rep. Adrian Smith prepared Thursday to travel to Montreal to deliver a message that NAFTA is a trade agreement that is in the best economic interests of the United States, including specifically its agricultural sector.

"We need the markets," Smith said during an interview at a coffee shop in Lincoln prior to joining a congressional delegation that will meet with negotiators who are considering changes in the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"If we pull the rug out now," the 3rd District Republican congressman said, "that will ultimately cost taxpayers" and specifically undermine the ag economy, which enjoys huge economic benefits from exports to Canada and Mexico.

President Donald Trump has mixed demands for renegotiation of the trade agreement with occasional threats to withdraw entirely from NAFTA, which he has characterized as "the worst trade agreement" ever negotiated by the United States.

Trump has "a different view than a lot of ag producers," Smith said.

"But I would not fault him for wanting to have a good deal," the congressman said.

"If some things need to be updated that do not undermine the advances that NAFTA has helped make," Smith said, that ultimately could be helpful.

Smith, who represents western and central Nebraska along with the northeastern and southeastern corners of the state, said the congressional delegation is going to Montreal to "raise awareness" about the economic benefits of NAFTA.

"It is not our job to negotiate," he said.

"Simply showing up sends a message," Smith said.

"The longer we go without resolving this and creating uncertainty, the more we let our competitors take more of the share of the market," he said.

U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement already has had a negative impact on potential new markets, Smith said.

"I think China appreciates that," he said.

U.S. beef and pork exports were counted as perhaps the largest beneficiaries of the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact negotiated during the administration of former President Barack Obama.

"We need to strengthen our own position in competition with China," Smith said.

"I want to keep an open mind as to how we can move forward now (in) developing positive commercial relationships that are win-win."

Smith already has urged that the United States aggressively pursue new markets in Japan now.

"They're an economic powerhouse," he said. "They really pose an opportunity for us."

On other issues, Smith said he believes Congress is "ready to deal with immigration reform."

Enhanced border security and the future of young DACA immigrants need to be packaged together in a comprehensive way, he said.

Asked his view of Trump after a year of his presidency, Smith said "he obviously has a different style with how we operate, he shakes things up a little bit."

That can be healthy, Smith said, especially if he can "channel that in a productive direction."


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