(UPDATED, Feb. 28) Mexican tomato growers are challenging the Commerce Department’s decision to formally withdraw from the tomato suspension agreement May 7.
The Mexican tomato growers on Feb. 25 filed a complaint with the U.S. Court of International Trade challenging the U.S. Department of Commerce’s decision. The department made the decision regarding a sunset review of the agreement suspending an anti-dumping investigation on imports of fresh tomatoes from Mexico.
“Mexican tomato growers have been trying for one year to renegotiate an existing agreement with the Commerce Department that has brought variety, quality and sanity to the U.S. market for fresh tomatoes,” Robert LaRussa of Shearman and Sterling, said in a news release. Shearman and Sterling is the law firm representing Mexican tomato growers.
“That effort has been met by resistance by a small group of growers from Florida who have tried to kill the agreement through a variety of legal maneuvers,” LaRussa said in the release. “Although our first preference is to negotiate, if we must fight this out at the Commerce Department, the International Trade Commission and in the courts to maintain a free and fair vegetable market for U.S. consumers then we will do so, as we did today.”
The Mexican tomato growers’ characterization of the negotiations drew an objection from Michael Schadler, executive vice president of The Florida Tomato Exchange,
“The claim by Mr. LaRussa that they been trying for one year to renegotiate the agreement is surprising to us,” Schadler said in a statement Feb. 28. “The consistent message that we’ve received from our Mexican counterparts is that they are very pleased with the current agreement and want it to continue. That’s not a renegotiation, which is why we find ourselves here today.”
The previous suspension agreement failed, he said.
“Tomato growers across the U.S. — not just Florida — have made it clear that the current agreement hasn’t worked,” Schadler said. “The only options from our perspective are either a significantly improved agreement or termination of the suspension.”
Domestic growers remain open to negotiating a new agreement as the May 7 termination date approaches, Schadler said.
“The ball is in Mexico’s court.”
According to the release from Shearman and Sterling, the Mexican growers challenge whether the Commerce Department ever had the basis for conducting a review, as well as the specific findings the Commerce Department made in the case.