See related story: Commerce Department kills U.S./Mexico tomato agreement.

While some Mexican interests held out hope for preserving a suspension agreement between Mexican tomato growers and the U.S., they also said rocking the trade boat could have severe consequences.

A day after the Commerce Department announced a preliminary decision to end the agreement, Mexican tomato interests met Sept. 28 with officials from the department to discuss renegotiating the agreement, said Robert LaRussa, lawyer with Shearman & Sterling, Washington, D.C., the counsel for Mexican tomato growers.

“This supposed to be a 270-day process, and we expect a 270-day process,” he said. “If they rush it, there can’t be any other reason to rush it except for political reasons,” he said.

The meeting was cordial, said Eric Viramontes, director general and chief executive officer of AMHPAC, the Mexican association of protected horticulture, Culiacan, Sinaloa.

“We are concerned about the preliminary outcome, but we did have our meeting with Commerce and we were able to talk about our proposal and it was well taken,” he said.

Mexican interests also warned of potentially severe trade repercussions if the suspension agreement falls away.

Ricardo Alday, spokesman for the Embassy of Mexico in the U.S., said it seems the decision is “dictated by politics rather sound policy.”

“If our interests end up being impacted we will respond, and there is plenty of evidences of how we can respond if you take a look at the trucking dispute we had with the U.S. for a number of years,” he said. “That might serve as an example of a line of action we might take if it comes to that.”

In 2009, Mexico enacted tariffs of 10% to 45% on grapes, pears, onions, apricots, cherries, strawberries, dates and head lettuce as a result of a cross-border trucking dispute. The tariffs have since been lifted with the resumption of the pilot trucking program.

LaRussa said if the Commerce Department lifts the suspension agreement, U.S. tomato interests would likely file an anti-dumping case days after.

“Their whole goal in this process is to get a higher degree of protection and to do it in a political year, so that’s what they are doing,” he said.

If the Commerce Department levies anti-dumping duties again, that would have an immediate chilling effect on importers, LaRussa said, because preliminary duties can be set initially at one level but later be raised retroactively by the Commerce Department.