Mexican fruit, vegetable tariffs dragging exports down

02/04/2010 02:42:30 PM
Tom Karst

Tariffs on U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico over the past 11 months are weighing on sales, and a coalition of industry advocates and sympathetic Democratic lawmakers are pushing the Obama administration to solve the Mexican truck dispute that caused the trade friction.

In a Jan. 29 letter to members of Congress, Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Calif., and Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., asked colleagues to sign a letter encouraging Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to find a solution to Mexican agricultural tariffs.

Congress terminated funding in the fiscal year 2009 omnibus appropriations bill for a pilot program that would allow trucks from Mexico into the U.S. to deliver loads directly to buyers.

File Photo

A Mexican truck unloads produce in Houston in 2006.


Cardoza and Larsen said the truck ban directly led to Mexico imposing retaliatory tariffs last March, resulting in economic setbacks for hundreds of growers and businesses.

The lawmakers wrote that Congress removed the prohibition in the fiscal year 2010 consolidated appropriations bill.

“Despite repeated letters and communication with the administration, the department of transportation has not moved forward to develop a plan that would remove these burdensome tariffs from the backs of our domestic businesses and farmers,” the letter said to their colleagues said.

In the letter to LaHood and Kirk, the lawmakers expressed concern about the lack of action and transparency by the Department of Transportation to address the tariffs imposed by Mexico.

“These tariffs have had a devastating impact on our local industries and area economies and we urge you to take immediate action to implement a plan of action to rectify this situation,” the letter said.

Calls to the public affairs office of the Department of Transportation were not returned.

Mexico has imposed retaliatory duties on more than 90 products, with ranging between 10% and 45%. Fresh produce items hit by the retaliatory tariff include lettuce, strawberries, pears, apricots, dates and onions. Frozen potatoes were also hit by a 20% tariff.

Without 20% retaliatory tariffs on cherries last season, Mark Powers, vice president of the Northwest Horticultural Council, Yakima, Wash., said industry experts believe that Northwest cherry exporters could have exported 50% more volume to Mexico.


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