U.S. govt urged to take time with Mexican suspension agreement
Growers and industry bodies are urging the U.S. Commerce Department to think again before terminating the Mexican tomato trade agreement, which warn could spark a damaging trade war.
Texas International Produce Association president John McClung, pointed out that Mexico was the biggest foreign market for U.S. apple exports.
"One of our concerns in Texas, and elsewhere in the U.S., is Mexico has been willing in the past to retailiate very vigorously, they have made it clear if this agreement is lifted they will retailiate on other produce items.
"You can be sure they will retailiate enthusiastically and this is a shame because it is so unnecessary."
Trade organizations claim the decision to end the 16-year-old suspension agreement, which prevents anti-dumping investigations, is hasty and politically motivated.
National Foreign Trade Council president Bill Reinsch, said it was debatable as to whether 85% of tomato growers in the U.S. did in fact support termination of the agreement.
"It's very important the Commerce Department follows the letter of the regulator and everything is nailed down tight.
"We are concerned it has the earmarks of a process which is being taken and proceeding to take advantage of an election timetable."
He added most of the producers pressing for the scrapping of the suspension agreement were in the swing state of Florida.
Reinsch said that the growers' population and distribution has changed since the current suspension agreement was struck in 2008.
He said rushing through termination of the suspension agreement ahead of presidential elections would be a great "disservice" to the industry and could lead to litigation.
Fresh Produce Association of the Americas president Lance Jungmeyer, added the current suspension agreement was due to be re-negotiated anyway.
"We only have three months left to go on the suspension agreement. All of us are willing to try and negotiate a suspension agreement which is comfortable for all parties, including the Floridians but there is no great rush to do this."
It's estimated the U.S. Department of Commerce will press ahead with scrapping the suspension agreement by April 2013 at the latest, after hearing representations from interested parties.
Mexico accounts for 71% of the U.S. import market for greenhouse tomatoes, while Canada's share has been reduced by half to 27% over the last seven years.
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