On Sept. 27, the Department of Commerce announced a preliminary decision to end a tomato suspension agreement with Mexico, followed by an official announcement Oct. 2.
Below are comments from other media about the trade agreement and the department’s decision.
Los Angeles Times — by Tracy Wilkinson and Ricardo Lopez, Oct. 2
MEXICO CITY — Mexico and the United States are gearing for a costly showdown over fresh tomatoes — a $3.5-billion business for the two countries — in a move that could boost the fortunes of some American tomato farmers but raise prices for U.S. consumers.
Growers in Florida have demanded cuts in imports from Mexico, and Washington appears inclined to support the Floridians and the few farmers from other states who have joined the complaint.
That would require ending a 16-year-old trade agreement and endanger tens of thousands of jobs on both sides of the border, especially in California and other border states, advocates for the Mexican tomatoes say.
It also would probably increase the cost to U.S. consumers of fresh tomatoes, though it’s unclear by how much. Mexico provides the U.S. with about half the fresh tomatoes it consumes, and many of the rest are grown in Florida, the United States’ No. 1 producer of fresh tomatoes, followed closely by California. (The Golden State surpasses Florida when processed tomatoes are thrown into the mix.)
Reuters — by Doug Palmer, Oct. 2
WASHINGTON — U.S. business groups said on Tuesday they were worried about a damaging trade war with Mexico if President Barack Obama’s administration follows through on a preliminary decision to end a 16-year-old tomato trade agreement.
They also expressed concern that last week’s Commerce Department decision was politically motivated to sway voters in Florida, the second largest U.S. tomato producer and one of a handful of battleground states expected to play a decisive role in the Nov. 6 presidential election.
“We think the U.S.-Mexico economic relationship is tremendously important,” Patrick Kilbride of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce told reporters on a conference call.
“We don’t want to see another trade war ignited,” he added, referring to a previous dispute over cross-border trucking.
Naples Daily News — by Tracy X. Miguel, Sept. 29
IMMOKALEE — Southwest Florida tomato growers like Frank Ochoa soon may get a break from years of tough competition from Mexican growers.
And it may keep farmers like Ochoa from folding. He was reacting Friday to a preliminary decision made Thursday by President Barack Obama’s administration toward terminating a 16-year-old tomato trade agreement with Mexico following a request from growers in Florida, an important swing state in the presidential election.
Growers maintain that a 1996 U.S.-Mexico agreement continues to hurt the state because Mexican growers are selling their tomatoes at unfairly low prices in the U.S., below a floor price, or minimum selling price, for the fruit they ship into this country.