(Adds comments by U.S. ag secretary, background on NAFTA renegotiation, byline)
GARDEN CITY, Ga., June 20 (Reuters) - The United States, Canada and Mexico have "relatively few" differences on agricultural trade, agriculture ministers from the three countries said in a joint statement after meeting on Tuesday to discuss the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
However, some "irritants" are present for each country in the runup to NAFTA renegotiations, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said at a joint news conference at the Port of Savannah, Georgia. He declined to elaborate.
"Now is not the time to talk about them. These are family discussions that need to take place," Perdue said. He compared the 23-year-old trade relationship to a marriage.
Renegotiation of NAFTA was a key campaign promise of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has pledged to shrink goods trade deficits that stood at $63 billion with Mexico and $11 billion with Canada last year, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
While the United States has criticized NAFTA's impact on domestic manufacturing, it has recognized the agreement's benefits to agriculture.
"We've come together to acknowledge that by and large NAFTA has been a favorable agreement for our three (agriculture) sectors in all three countries from an agricultural perspective," Perdue said. "That is the communication I gave to President Trump."
Perdue is meeting with Canada's minister of agriculture, Lawrence MacAulay, and Mexico's secretary of agriculture, Jose Calzada, in his home state for several days this week to lay groundwork for upcoming NAFTA renegotiation talks.
(Reporting by Harriet McLeod in Garden City, Georgia, and Karl Plume in Chicago; Editing by Matthew Lewis)