A Utah official is traveling to Mexico this weekend for international trade talks centered on improving food safety and gaining better access to Mexican and Canadian markets for U.S.-grown commodities.

Cary G. Peterson, Utah commissioner of agriculture and food, is attending ACCORD '98 in Puebla City, located near Mexico City.As first vice president of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, Peterson has responsibility to open and speak at a general assembly gathering. He will become the association's president in September.

"Our discussions will center on issues of food safety and better access to foreign markets. We want to talk about standards of equivalence among all three countries relating to the food safety and inspection system. What comes into the United States must be as safe for our consumers as the products we grow and produce here," Peterson said.

Peterson will lead a group of state agriculture commissioners, secretaries and directors from 11 states.

The U.S. contingent will discuss provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement that allow better access for American products into Canada and Mexico.

Peterson said the delegation wants to work out logistical problems that "tend to create bottlenecks for U.S. trade into those countries. He said he and others are also concerned with "some protectionism practices that prevent U.S. products from competing fairly in both countries."

He will also seek provisions in trade agreements to add country-of-origin labeling for agricultural and other food products imported into the United States. One provision would mandate that beef products carry labeling indicating where the animal was raised.

In 1995, Utah exported $10 million in dairy products to Canada, Mexico and the Pacific Rim. That same year, $117 million worth of processed foods were shipped to Canada, Europe and the Pacific Rim.

Some $50 million in livestock hides and skins is exported each year from Utah to Mexico and the Pacific Rim. And $5 million in fruits and vegetables is exported each year to Mexico and the Pacific Rim, according to Larry Lewis, public information officer for the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.