Tomato Suspension Agreement Signed Between United States and Mexico
USA and MEXICO - The state of tomato trade between the U.S. and Mexico has seen a lot of ups and downs this year. In May, the U.S. terminated its longstanding Tomato Suspension Agreement with Mexico, which understandably generated considerable concern in the industry. A series of back-and-forth proposals have transpired since then, but now, for better or worse, a new agreement has been signed.
The new agreement was signed on September 19, following a long period of negotiations. The U.S. Department of Commerce agreed to suspend the antidumping investigation of fresh tomatoes from Mexico, according to a press release. The new agreement will reportedly include strong monitoring, enforcement, and anti-circumvention provisions. Border inspections are to be included as part of these measures, though those inspections will cover only around 66 percent of imported Mexican tomatoes. But officials are optimistic that the inspections will discourage the dumping of defective and low-quality tomatoes.
“Today's signing, while just the beginning, is a very good thing. It brings certainty to the marketplace after nearly a year of negotiations,” Dante Galeazzi, President of TIPA, commented. “The deal may not be perfect for both sides, but what it does do is set the field for the next five years so that growers can plan and plant knowing what to expect and what the rules will look like. The next steps will be understanding implementation and effects of the new agreement, but for the American consumer this represents a win. Tomato connoisseurs will get both U.S.- and Mexican-grown tomatoes in the marketplace at affordable prices, all year long."
However, on the other side of the coin, the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas (FPAA) sees other challenges that this agreement has impressed upon them.
“It is outrageous that Commerce used false justifications to introduce what essentially acts as a quota or volume control method,” said Lance Jungmeyer, President of FPAA. “It is completely unnecessary to require USDA to conduct quality inspections on an item that has already demonstrated a historical pass rate of 99.76 percent.”
The FPAA believes that the new agreement will continue to allow market access for Mexican tomatoes, but will harm importers. The association claims in its own press release that importers are likely to face increased costs and disruption to their businesses due to the controversial Border Inspection Mechanism, which the association describes as a technical barrier to trade.
“The United States has fought and fought for decades to reduce phony and unjustifiable non-tariff barriers to trade. Now that Commerce has pushed this inspection, other countries may be emboldened to push for similar restrictions on imports of U.S. foods into their countries,” added Jungmeyer. “It is truly short-sighted.”
The Florida Tomato Exchange (FTE) also weighed in on the recent agreement, viewing the new agreement as a positive development, and releasing a statement praising the efforts of the U.S. Department of Commerce and Mexican tomato exporters.
"This agreement, like any trade agreement, will only work if it is enforced. The FTE looks forward to
working with the Commerce Department and the USDA to ensure that the agreement is enforced
vigorously and to identify and stop all efforts to circumvent or undermine its provisions, especially
the border inspection system. Today’s signing is a step in the right direction to stop further injury to American farmers caused by dumped Mexican tomatoes," the statement reads.
United Fresh’s Senior Vice President, Public Policy, Robert Guenther, also believes the agreement is a step towards finding the balance between the U.S. and Mexico.
“Yesterday, the Mexican tomato industry and the United States Department of Commerce signed a new tomato suspension agreement that would halt the anti-dumping investigation which was reactivated on May 7, 2019," stated Guenther. "United Fresh is grateful that all parties involved were able to resolve their differences. The agreement now ensures that consumers of tomatoes will not be negatively impacted.”
Clearly, there are strong opinions on both sides, though we can all agree that we want what’s best for U.S. farmers, the international marketplace, and the consumer. Is there really a middle ground? Only time will tell how the new agreement will play out, but AndNowUKnow will bring you updates and the input of industry leaders.