( File photo )

(UPDATED, 2:14 p.m.) With talks to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement apparently coming down the home stretch, some Mexican trade sources are saying the U.S. has discarded its demand for a new trade protection tool for U.S. specialty crop growers.

Reuters reported Aug. 20 that Mario Andrade, vice president for foreign trade at Mexico’s National Agricultural Council, said the U.S. demand for a new trade protection tool for seasonal commodities — favored by many Southeast U.S. produce growers — has been withdrawn.

Andrade told Reuters the U.S. decision followed a lobbying effort by Mexico that aimed to show the provision would help only a small group of U.S. growers while putting many others at risk of retaliation.

Industry leaders had no confirmation of the Reuters story.

Lisa Lochridge, director of public affairs for the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, said the group continues to stress to the administration that the specialty crop sectors in Florida and the Southeast can’t survive without fair trade recourse against Mexico’s unfair dumping and subsidy practices.

“As Congress and the administration know, our industry has suffered more than most under the current NAFTA,” Lochridge said in an e-mail.

One source close to Mexican officials — and speaking on background — said the U.S. was considering removing the Sunset clause, a provision that would terminate the trade deal if not renegotiated every five years, in exchange for favorable terms for auto rules of origin. However, the U.S. trade officials then discussed offering the seasonality trade provision as a concession instead of the Sunset clause. The source was unsure if anything has been finalized, however.