Fears are mounting in the US produce industry that it will be one of the first casualties of the escalating trade skirmish between the Trump administration and Mexico.
As relations between the two governments sour and the threat of tariffs mounts, a growing number of companies are reporting to be lining up alternative markets.
US table grape marketer John Pandol of Pandol Bros suggested that Trump’s naming of Robert Lighthizer as US trade representative could put produce suppliers in the direct line of fire in a trade war.
“I don’t like the approach of guys like Lighthizer and the ‘hard’ bargains they make,” he told Fruitnet. “Produce items tend to lose out as they tend to be singled out for retaliation.”
He cited the example of the 2009 dispute over a cancelled pilot programme allowing Mexican trucks to operate in the US, which prompted Mexico to introduce a 45 per cent tariff on US table grapes, causing table grape exports to fall by 73 per cent.
Sales of US food and farm products to Mexico totaled US$19.5bn in 2014, representing 13 per cent of total US agricultural exports.
Meanwhile, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and Mexican economy minister Ildefonso Guajardo issued a joint statement on Wednesday announcing that the European Union and Mexico will speed up negotiations to sign a free trade agreement in light of “the worrying rise of protectionism around the world”.
New rounds of meetings are scheduled to take place in April and June in Brussels and Mexico City. The EU is Mexico’s third largest trading partner after the US and China.