There are no coincidences in international trade.
Mexico is the U.S.’ No. 3 trading partner, and we haven’t been seeing eye-to-eye lately when it comes to fresh produce.
The latest example is a late November rule from Mexico that expands the pest list and other hurdles for U.S. potatoes crossing the border.
Already, fresh potatoes from the U.S. are restricted to a 16-mile border zone in Mexico. In September, it looked like that line would be erased after a proposed rule from the Mexican government granting full access.
But in late September, the U.S. Department of Commerce said it may end the 16-year-old Mexican tomato suspension agreement, which set a floor price for Mexican tomato imports after an anti-dumping investigation.
After the Department of Commerce announcement, Mexico’s ambassador to the U.S. said, “Mexico will respond. You should ask those who were in the Mexican crosshairs over the trucking dispute. When Mexico aims, Mexico hits the target.”
He was referring to retaliatory tariffs in a cross-border trucking program dispute that included duties on U.S. table grapes, potatoes and apples.
On this latest restrictive potato import rule, U.S. sources aren’t blaming the tomato dispute, but reasonable people can speculate that it has at least some influence, if not significant.
It’s not enough for potato interests to submit comments and work with Mexican officials. Bigger U.S. trade officials — even up to the Obama administration — need to get involved.
Once dumping and pest concerns are satisfied, cross-border trade needs to continue before U.S. and Mexican consumers and workers pay the price.
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