This year marks the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a trade deal among the United States, Mexico and Canada, according to a news release from the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC).

It remains to this day one of the most important free trade agreements (FTAs) the United States has negotiated and has been especially beneficial for the U.S. pork industry. Much of the U.S. pork industry’s early export success came in large part from the increased access to Mexico and Canada gained through NAFTA.

Once an inconsequential market for U.S. pork, Mexico now ranks as the second-largest value market for U.S. pork exports, valued at $1.13 billion in 2012, and the largest volume market, with more than 600,000 metric tons (MT) exported, a rate increase of 530% since implementation. Mexico alone now accounts for more than 20% of total U.S. pork exports and approximately 4% of U.S. pork production.

U.S. pork exports to Canada, as part of NAFTA and previously under the U.S.-Canada FTA, have grown to more than 230,000 MT from just under 7,000 MT in 1989, placing Canada among the top five foreign markets for U.S. pork.

NAFTA not only increased pork exports but also increased communication and cooperation among the three nations in the form of animal health capacity building, food safety, regulatory alignment and other issues of mutual interest.

NPPC continues to work closely with its counterparts in Mexico and Canada to strengthen the relationship and the North American swine herd.