Department of Commerce Terminates Tomato Suspension Agreement, Industry Responds
WASHINGTON, DC - After 22 years, the Tomato Suspension Agreement has officially been terminated. According to The Washington Post, this means the United States will impose a 17.5 percent tariff on Mexican tomato imports, which could lead to price increases of up to 85 percent and a shortage of goods. Many in produce have been preparing for the end of the agreement since the news first arose earlier this year.
“We are disappointed that the Department of Commerce did not work more aggressively with both parties to come to an agreement that would have prevented this unfortunate action. It’s simply poor public policy to reinstate punitive tariffs from a preliminary 1996 determination from more than 20 years ago,” stated Tom Stenzel, President & CEO of United Fresh, following the news . “American consumers would be better served by a new agreement that ensures a fair, reliable and cost-effective supply of high-quality fresh tomatoes. We urge the Department of Commerce and the interested parties to re-engage in urgent negotiations to reach a fair settlement.”
The Fresh Produce Association of the Americas (FPAA) agreed with United Fresh. In an official statement titled, “FPAA Disappointed that Commerce Has Ended the Tomato Suspension Agreement,” the association outlined the efforts of its members—its growers, the Congressional Delegation, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, and more—and made known its advocacy for a new agreement.
“The Fresh Produce Association is disappointed the Department of Commerce has terminated the Tomato Suspension Agreement. The agreement has been an important tool in protecting over 33,000 American jobs and creating stability in the market,” the FPAA wrote. “It is our understanding that the Mexican growers put several proposals on the table to improve an already-effective agreement. Despite the fact that the agreement has been terminated, our hope is that Commerce continues to work in good faith with the growers in Mexico to negotiate a new agreement that balances concerns of growers in Florida with the need to protect our robust trading relationship… The FPAA is working closely with our members, CBP, and Commerce to ensure that the termination of the agreement and imposition of duties is as seamless as possible. We again thank our members, our industry allies, and our elected officials for their tireless efforts in this process.”
In a press release, the U.S. Department of Commerce noted that despite the termination of the 2013 Suspension Agreement, negotiations will continue regarding a possible revised agreement acceptable to Mexican signatories, which also addresses the concerns of the U.S. industry to the extent permissible by the U.S. trade law.
“The Department of Commerce remains committed to ensuring that American domestic industries are protected from unfair trading practices,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “We remain optimistic that there will be a negotiated solution.”
The Produce Marketing Association released its own official statement, adding: “Trade is critical for the produce and floral industry, as the buying and selling of these products—including tomatoes—occurs in a global marketplace. The impact of the previous agreement for U.S. consumers has been year-round availability of fresh produce at an affordable price. We understand that there are different perspectives on the success of the suspension agreement on tomatoes among market participants. What everyone should be able to agree upon is the need for transparency and predictability.”
AndNowUKnow will continue to closely follow any and all news related to the Tomato Suspension Agreement.