(UPDATED COVERAGE, Aug. 23) Agreeing to take another look at the antidumping suspension agreement on fresh tomatoes imported from Mexico, the U.S. Department of Commerce said the agency it will take comments until Sept. 4 on the pact that has governed the price of imported Mexican tomatoes since 1996.
The Commerce Department’s review falls short of what some U.S. tomato interests had wanted — an outright termination of the suspension agreement. Florida tomato interests say they have been subject to unfair trade practices from Mexican tomato exporters for years.
“It’s unfortunate the Department of Commerce has departed from their traditional position of accepting a petitioner’s request to withdraw from dumping cases,” said Reggie Brown, executive vice president of the Maitland-based Florida Tomato Exchange, “We waited 60 days for Commerce to add another barrier into the process for the domestic tomato industry in this country.”
While not specifically addressing the prospects for a new dumping investigation into Mexican tomatoes, Brown said U.S. tomato leaders will fight what he calls unfair trade practices.
Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, said Mexican growers have indicated their willingness to negotiate with the Department of Commerce for an updated suspension agreement.
“They are getting stonewalled,” Jungmeyer said. “There is willingness on one side and not the other.”
According to the Department of Commerce, the suspension agreement covers more than 85% of the Mexico’s tomato shipments to the U.S.
“Special interest groups are using election-year politics to try to start a trade war that will disrupt a 16-year track record of success for bringing fair prices to consumers and healthy variety to family dinner tables,” Jungmeyer said in a news release.