Groups such as the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas and the Border Trade Alliance continue to make misleading statements about the U.S.-Mexico Tomato Suspension Agreement in an apparent attempt to muddy the waters and stoke fear among other agricultural sectors in the U.S. Here are a few basic facts to keep in mind:
- Support for the termination of the tomato suspension agreement is widespread among U.S. fresh-market tomato producers. The FPAA and BTA know this but continue to spin a false narrative that this is a Florida versus Mexico issue. It is not.
The failure of the suspension agreement and the continued dumping of Mexican tomatoes has negatively affected tomato growers around the country during all growing seasons. That’s why 48 members of Congress from 11 different states sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in February requesting the termination.
Last week, at a hearing on this matter before the U.S. International Trade Commission, the domestic tomato industry was represented by six tomato growers with operations spanning California, Michigan, Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia and Florida. Only two of those six growers have production in Florida.
- The suspended antidumping case against Mexican tomatoes has nothing to do with NAFTA or the USMCA. Termination of the suspension agreement would not have any bearing on passage of the USMCA and would not be grounds for Mexican retaliation.
- The Border Trade Alliance recently stated that terminating the suspension agreement would invite retaliation against U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico. This assertion completely ignores the fact that NAFTA and USMCA permit Mexican and American industries to use their national antidumping and countervailing duty laws to protect themselves from unfair trade practices. The antidumping case against Mexican tomatoes is a tomato-specific case that has no impact on any other commodities.
There are currently 22 antidumping and countervailing duty cases in place between the U.S. and Mexico (nine against U.S. products and 13 against Mexican products). Neither the U.S. nor Mexico have retaliated against each other in any of these cases.
If Mexico were to retaliate over the U.S. enforcing its antidumping law against unfairly traded Mexican tomatoes, Mexico would be violating the rules established by NAFTA, USMCA, and international law. It is indefensible for the Border Trade Alliance to scare U.S. farmers by suggesting that the government of Mexico would consider violating these rules of law.
The Commerce Department — after more than a year of reviewing data and competing claims — has agreed with the domestic tomato industry that the suspension agreement isn’t working. For that reason, the Commerce Department decided to terminate the agreement, effective May 7, which will restart the antidumping investigation on Mexican tomatoes.
U.S. tomato producers remain open to further negotiations for a new suspension agreement, but after the past six years of a failed agreement, the domestic industry can’t afford minor window dressing of the current deal.
Michael Schadler is executive vice president of the Maitland-based Florida Tomato Exchange.
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