LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A trade agreement between the United States and Mexico is critical to Nebraska agriculture and the state's overall economy, Gov. Pete Ricketts said Monday after President Donald Trump announced the countries have reached a preliminary deal to replace NAFTA.

Ricketts expressed optimism that a newly revised North American Free Trade Agreement will benefit Nebraska. His comments in an interview came after he returned from a three-day trade mission to Mexico last week that included meetings with business leaders and government officials.

Ricketts said he emphasized the importance of NAFTA during the visit, and has previously encouraged U.S. officials to finalize an agreement. The trip included meetings with business officials to persuade them to invest in Nebraska in the future, as other companies in Canada and Europe have done after some of the governor's previous trade missions.

An agreement that promotes free trade "would really allow us to continue to grow that relationship (with Mexico) that's been so beneficial to Nebraska," Ricketts said. "Sometimes these relationships take time to produce any tangible results, but I think we did a great job of laying that groundwork while we were in Mexico."

Mexico is Nebraska's second-largest trading partner, taking more than $1.5 billion in exports last year, according to the state Department of Economic Development. Nearly $1 billion of those exports are agricultural products. Ricketts said Mexico is buying many of its agricultural products from countries such as Russia and Brazil, but Nebraska is well-positioned to grab some of that business once a trade deal is finalized.

The Nebraska Farm Bureau, the state's largest farming organization, praised Trump's announcement as a benefit for farmers but said more needs to be done to bring the third NAFTA country, Canada, back to the negotiating table.

"It's time for our countries to resolve these issues and lock in an updated track agreement," said Steve Nelson, the group's president.