U.S. outlines plans to tackle 'threat' of seasonal produce imports from Mexico
The Trump administration has announced plans to help U.S. farmers who it says are 'threatened' by rising imports of seasonal fruit and vegetables from Mexico.
The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) said that the U.S. Administration will enact a multi-point plan including holding talks with Mexico to discuss concerns.
The plan follows public hearings held in August where more than 60 witnesses testified, in addition to over 300 written submissions.
"USTR will request the International Trade Commission to initiate a Section 201 global safeguard investigation into the extent to which increased imports of blueberries have caused serious injury to domestic blueberry growers," it said.
It will also pursue "senior-level government-to-government discussions with Mexico over the next 90 days to address U.S. industry concerns regarding U.S. imports of Mexican strawberries, bell peppers, and other seasonal and perishable products".
The USTR says it will work with domestic producers to begin an investigation by the International Trade Commission to "monitor and investigate" imports of strawberries and bell peppers. It says this "could enable an expedited Section 201 global safeguard investigation later this year".
In addition, the Department of Commerce will establish an outreach program to connect with Southeastern and other growers of seasonal and perishable fruits and vegetables, "to enhance understanding of applicable trade remedy laws and processes".
It will also establish a formal channel for stakeholders "to provide information related to unfair subsidies for foreign producers and exporters of seasonal and perishable fruits and vegetables, including those in Mexico – building on ongoing efforts to partner with U.S. industry to identify such subsidies".
Also outlined in the plan, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will increase targeted outreach to producers of seasonal and perishable fruits and vegetables to maximize the use of existing USDA programs, and also develop a market promotion strategy for domestically produced produce.
It will also " initiate conversations with relevant federal partners to better understand the extent to which imports of seasonal and perishable products are utilized to enable criminal activity".
"USTR, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Agriculture will establish an interagency working group to monitor seasonal and perishable fruit and vegetable products, coordinate as appropriate regarding future investigations and trade actions, and provide technical assistance to Members of Congress in developing legislation on this issue," the USTR said.
"This plan does not foreclose additional actions and investigations by the Trump Administration to support producers of seasonal and perishable fruits and vegetables.
"The Administration is dedicated to supporting America’s hardworking farmers across the country and recognizes the importance of preserving and enhancing a diverse and homegrown food supply."
Some U.S. growers, particularly in the Southeast, have long complained about what they describe as unfair competition from Mexican imports, but critics such as the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas (FPAA) says that their claims are unfounded.
In a statement, the FPAA described the USTR's plan as a "politically motivated action" that "directly undermines the new U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement, positioning the U.S. as an unreliable trading partner despite any trade agreements they negotiate".
"Mexico is our largest trading partner, with a climate ideally suited for fresh fruits and vegetables," it said.
"Sadly, partisan politics failed to consider the best interests of American farmers, American businesses, and American consumers who will likely see increased food costs and lower overall farm exports. The complaint was based on an intentionally misleading propaganda campaign from Florida and Georgia growers based on rhetoric without data that supports their claims."
To read the full USTR report, click here.
Click here to read the full transcript of the virtual hearing held on August 13, 2020.
Click here to read the full transcript of the virtual hearing held on August 20, 2020.
To view all submitted comments to the public docket, click here.