The Fresh Produce Association of the Americas (FPAA) has welcomed the finding by the US International Trade Commission that imported blueberries are not a cause of serious injury to domestic growers.
“The ITC’s determination spells future success for the recently negotiated US Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA),” said FPAA president Lance Jungmeyer.
“Had the ITC tagged Mexico or Canada for injury or trade remedies, this could have unravelled the promise of the trade agreement, because the proposal to a have seasonal produce tariffs was rejected by USMCA negotiators.”
The FPAA said it remained “extremely concerned” by the number of trade investigations opened recently by US trade representatives on imported produce, especially key commodities from Mexico, the country’s number one trade partner.
Mexican tomato imports already face US trade sanctions, and the ITC has now initiated investigations on bell peppers, strawberries, squash, cucumbers and raspberries.
“By trade value, 42 per cent of Mexico’s produce is under sanction or investigation by the US,” Jungmeyer said.
“Although we are heartened by ITC’s decision on blueberries, the previous administration left these investigations for the Biden Administration, which now must navigate a tenuous situation with Mexico, our top trading partner. The investigations that were requested by Southeastern growers were clearly the result of political pressure.”
Mexico’s Agriculture Secretary Victor Villalobos said recently that if Mexican produce was targeted for trade remedies such as tariffs or quotas, it would respond against US exports with “mirror policies”.
Many US agriculture organisations recognised what was at stake when they signed a letter to USTR in December opposing the above-mentioned global safeguard investigations, and that tariffs on Mexican produce would result in retaliatory measures harming American farmers of grains, meats, dairy and other items.
Beyond ITC’s ruling, the FPAA said it is hopeful that moderate voices on trade emerging within the Biden Administration will work to preserve the spirit of what was negotiated in USMCA.
“Rather than trade conflicts, we hope to see strengthened cooperation between the U.S. Mexico and Canada on agriculture, phytosanitary and border security issues,” Jungmeyer said.
“We need to get back to the business of feeding North America, keeping consumers supplied with affordable and nutritious foods. The complementarity of food supplies is why USMCA and NAFTA have been so positive for consumers and farmers.”