Associations representing most of the Mexican tomato industry formally presented to the Commerce Department proposed changes to the 2013 Tomato Suspension Agreement that include unprecedented enforcement and anti-circumvention provisions and strategic price increases.
While the record of the 2013 Agreement reflects full compliance with the agreement, the Mexican growers offered these proposals in the spirit of goodwill and to ensure airtight enforcement, according to a press release.
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced last February the U.S. plans to withdraw from the 2013 Suspension Agreement on Fresh Tomatoes from Mexico on May 7th. The decision will allow authorities to investigate allegations that product is being dumped into the U.S. market.
Last week, Congressman Vern Buchanan and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio led a bipartisan group of senators and congressmen urging Trade Ambassador Robert Lighthizer to protect Florida farmers in trade negotiations with Mexico.
“We strongly insist that the Administration address this issue in a way that gives confidence to all seasonal growers that the federal government can and will act to counter legitimate injury from unfair imports from Mexico or any other country,” stated a letter to Ambassador Lighthizer.
Earlier this year, Buchanan, Rubio, and Congressman Al Lawson (D-FL) introduced the Defending Domestic Produce Production Act, legislation to help Florida fruit and vegetable growers combat Mexico’s unfair trade practices.
“Our goal from the beginning of the renegotiation process has been to focus on enforcement even though there is no evidence of circumvention of the agreement,” said Oscar Woltman, president of AMPHAC, the largest Mexican growers association.
The proposal to the U.S. Commerce Department includes the following:
- Price increases ranging between 6 and 34%, including eliminating any differences between the summer and winter prices under the agreement, and establishing a higher price for specialty tomatoes grown organically.
- Requirements that loads of Mexican tomatoes with more than 35 percent condition defects will have to be driven back to Mexico at the grower’s expense.
- Provisions making exports of Mexican tomatoes under a different signatory number other than one’s own a violation of the agreement.
- No adjustments can be made under the reference price.
- Provisions to block unintended exports of fresh tomatoes from Mexico and better manage inventory levels in the United States.
- Provisions to strengthen the ability of the Department of Agriculture to enforce the Tomato Suspension Agreement under the PACA by giving the Commerce Department all necessary grower documents to prove PACA violations.
- New penalties for intentional violations of the agreement by Mexican growers or their selling agents.
- Commitments by Mexican growers to help facilitate efforts by an interagency task force to enforce the agreement, including through on-site and video verifications, and a willingness to use independent auditors to help in that effort.
“We have developed proposals on both sides of the border focusing on enforcing the arrival condition of the first sale, which is what is covered by the antidumping law. We can’t, of course, agree to anything that goes beyond the reach of U.S. law,” said Rosario Beltran of Confederación de Asociaciones Agrícolas del Estado de Sinaloa, A.C.
Added Salvatore Garcia, President of Consejo Agrícola de Baja California, A.C.: “We have said all along we prefer an agreement over litigation, but only if it is fair.”
Information provided by PRNewswire.