Mexican Senator: Bad Tomato Deal Could Imperil New NAFTA

Published: Tuesday, June 18, 2019 - 1:21pm
Updated: Tuesday, June 18, 2019 - 2:30pm
Murphy Woodhouse/KJZZ
These organic tomatoes will soon be exported to the United States from Sonora, Mexico.

A high-ranking Mexican senator is warning his American counterparts that an unresolved tomato dispute could imperil the renegotiated NAFTA — or USMCA — deal.

Economics Commission chair Sen. Gustavo Madero sent a letter to several U.S. legislators warning that a bad tomato deal would “represent an obstacle for the ratification of the USMCA by our country.”

He was referring to the 2013 Tomato Suspension Agreement, which set floor prices and other rules for imported Mexican tomatoes. The U.S. Department of Commerce abandoned the deal in May, and negotiations have not led to a new one yet.

Madero warned that a deal that harms Mexican growers could impact the 400,000 directly employed by them. One million indirect jobs also depend on the industry, according to a copy of the letter provided by Madero’s office.

“What happens when they don’t find jobs in that sector?” asked Jaime Chamberlain, president of a Nogales-based produce distributor. “It won’t be Central Americans knocking on the door, it will be Mexicans that are knocking on the door.”

Tomatoes are a key import in the city. Nearly $600 million worth of Mexican tomatoes crossed there in 2018, and roughly $2 billion worth crossed border-wide, according to federal trade data. 

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