U.S. Agricultural Groups Call for Review Over Trade Relations with Mexico

More than 20 agricultural and food associations expressed their concern over the deterioration of trade relations between the United States and Mexico due to recent actions by the neighboring country that are hurting farmers and ranchers in the United States.

The American Farm Bureau Federation, along with 26 other organizations, sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai regarding U.S.-Mexico trade relations.

The signatories, which represent a large portion of the agri-food sector, are responsible for approximately one-fifth of the country’s economic activity, directly supporting more than 23 million jobs, constituting nearly 15% of total U.S. employment. 

In the letter to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Trade Representative, they recognize that Mexico is one of the United States’ most important trading partners in food and agriculture.  NAFTA has brought great benefits to both countries, and the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) promises to build on those benefits. 

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However, they warn that “the food and agriculture trade relationship with Mexico has declined markedly, a trend USMCA’s implementation has not reversed.” 

Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said, “AFBF is extremely concerned with the rapidly deteriorating relationship between the U.S. and our neighbors to the south. We built strong trade ties with Mexico through NAFTA and improved upon them with USMCA, but recent moves by Mexico to limit American imports and to undercut prices in the U.S. puts America’s farmers and ranchers at a competitive disadvantage.”

“We urge Secretary Vilsack and Ambassador Tai to engage with Mexico and enforce the agreements between our two countries to ensure farmers have a level playing field and continue to lead the world in producing safe, affordable food,” Duvall added in a press release.

The agri-food associations highlighted eight significant areas of concern in the trade relations between the two countries that the U.S. government should act on:

  • Glyphosate/GM Corn Ban: On December 31, 2020, the Mexican government issued a Presidential Decree stating the intention to phase out glyphosate and the use of genetically modified (GM) corn for human consumption.
  • Increasing Obstacles to Dairy Trade: The U.S. dairy industry’s number one export market has become increasingly volatile, with multiple regulatory and policy developments creating repeated changes to trading conditions and the prospect of additional trade barriers.
  • Organic Export Certification Requirement: On December 16, 2020, the Organic Trade Association was informed by the U.S. accredited organic certifying agency that Mexico’s Health, Food Safety, and Quality Agency (SENASICA) would begin requiring all U.S. organic exports to Mexico to become certified to Mexico’s organic standards (Ley de Producto Organicos – LPO) no later than December 28, 2020.
  • Corn Product Disparagement: Over the past year, in violation of its trade obligations, Mexico has undertaken a state-sponsored campaign of disparagement of corn sweeteners from the U.S.
  • Biotechnology Approvals: Beyond the Decree, the Government of Mexico has created significant uncertainty for agricultural biotechnology, ceasing review and approval of any biotechnology applications since May 2018. 
  • Meat Industry Market Access and Geographical Indications:  They are particularly concerned about policies that would result in retaliation against U.S. meat and poultry exports to Mexico, or other onerous barriers that would unduly restrict trade, cost hard-earned market share, and jeopardize jobs and livelihoods for American meat and poultry industry workers.
  • Potato Import Ban: In 2002, the U.S. and Mexican governments announced that both sides would resolve two long-standing market access issues. The U.S. agreed to expand market access for Mexican avocados, and Mexico decided to open their market for U.S. fresh potatoes. Today, the U.S. imports $2 billion worth of Mexican avocados while trade with Mexico remains almost entirely closed to U.S. fresh potatoes.
  • Front-of-Pack Labeling (NOM-051): They are deeply concerned about Mexico’s new food labeling measures. The impact of these measures, which, in certain areas, appear to lack a sound, scientific basis, are exacerbated by a government campaign in Mexico to curtail U.S. food and agriculture imports by attacking the reputation of imported products, branding them as detrimental to the health of Mexican consumers.