Are Mexican tomato growers experiencing buyer’s remorse about their newly negotiated suspension agreement with the Department of Commerce?
The deal, agreed to on Aug. 20, is set to be signed Sept. 19.
On Sept. 6, the Mexican tomato industry penned a letter to the Department of Commerce stating Mexican growers have “strong misgivings” about signing a final agreement without greater clarity on the proposed border inspection mechanism.
On Sept. 12, prior to a meeting with the agency the same day, the Mexican industry again submitted comments expressing concerns and seeking clarifications on border inspections, compliance monitoring and language regarding buyer reimbursement for transportation expenses and inspection fees in the event of rejected loads.
The Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, the government of Mexico and other interested parties have also submitted comment questioning some of the provisions in the agreement.
Lance Jungmeyer, president of the FPPA, said there is much confusion and ambiguity in the agreement related to price adjustments linked to quality problems.
A Sept. 9 letter to the Department of Commerce from Walmart’s James Bailey, senior director of federal government affairs for the retailer, expressed concern about the inspection provision in the agreement.
“We are concerned this (inspection program) would create substantial bottlenecks at ports of entry,” the letter said. “Any delay in inspections would lead to quality degradation and added cost.”
Bailey urged the department to implement a “trusted trader” program that would allow qualified importers to receive expedited review and import entry.
It is not known if the Department of Commerce will seek to make any minor or major changes to terms of the agreement before Sept. 19.
Michael Schadler, executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Exchange, said it is up to the Commerce Department and the Mexican industry to formally sign the deal on Sept. 19 if they still want to suspend the dumping investigation.
“If the Mexican growers have decided that they don’t want to have the investigation suspended, they do not have to sign anything,” he said.
If the tomato suspension agreement is not signed, the International Trade Commission will hold a hearing on the dumping investigation on Sept. 24, with a final determination on dumping injury from Mexican tomato imports expected sometime in October.
Correction: A previous version incorrectly referred to a quote by Michael Schadler about the agreement being suspended, rather than the investigation being suspended.