U.S. Trade Representative Calls For Investigation Of Pepper, Strawberry Imports

Published: Thursday, November 5, 2020 - 5:14pm
Updated: Friday, November 6, 2020 - 7:36am

A top U.S. trade official is calling for an investigation of imported peppers and strawberries.

In an Election Day letter to the chair of the U.S. International Trade Commission, U.S. Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer asked the body to “monitor and investigate imports of strawberries and bell peppers.”

Such an investigation could ultimately lead to tariffs. A similar investigation into imported blueberries was requested earlier this year.

“If the U.S. takes action on this, it encourages trading partners — Mexico and Canada — to consider similar options for other trade areas,” said Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Nogales-based Fresh Produce Association of the Americas. Such trade tensions could undermine the recently implemented USMCA trade deal, he added.

“Our industry is essential in feeding Americans fresh U.S.-grown produce from November to late spring,” said Mike Joyner, president of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, during August comments in support of action by the USTR. “However, our ability to do so has severely eroded over the last few decades because of unfair trade practices by Mexico, which shares our growing seasons.”

More than $1.1 billion worth of peppers were imported into the United States in 2019, along with about $850 million worth of strawberries, according to federal data. Large majorities of both came from Mexico, and Nogales is one of the most important ports for peppers.

The U.S. president ultimately decides what measures to impose, if any, according to a recent USTR report. As of Thursday afternoon, who that will be when the ITC makes any determinations was still unclear.

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