Arizona Congress Members Urge Renewed Agreement On Mexican Tomatoes
Arizona Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally signed a letter in early March asking Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to protect Mexican tomato imports. Seven other members of Congress signed on to the letter.
The 2013 Suspension Agreement on Fresh Tomatoes from Mexico sets a price floor for imported Mexican tomatoes and suspends an anti-dumping investigation that dates back to the mid-1990s. But it was terminated in February amid claims by Florida produce growers and politicians that Mexico was benefiting from unfair trade practices.
If the agreement lapses, import duties could rise on Mexican tomatoes. The Arizona Congress members said that would cost U.S. jobs, increase consumer prices and jeopardize the U.S.-Mexico trade relationship.
"It is for these reasons that we urge the Department of Commerce to continue renegotiation toward a mutually-agreed Tomato Suspension Agreement that addresses U.S. grower concerns," the letter said. "Terminating the agreement without the certainty provided by a revised suspension agreement would create economic uncertainty throughout the supply chain and risk retaliation to our agriculture industry."
Last Tuesday, the Nogales, Arizona-based Fresh Produce Association of the Americas sent another letter to Ross reiterating that message.
“It does have an impact all throughout the supply chain," said FPAA President Lance Jungmeyer. "And I would say that causes us great concern."
In the letter, the FPAA, which represents U.S. importers of Mexican fruits and vegetables, asked the Commerce Department not to favor the needs of a few produce growers in Florida above the overall well-being of the tomato industry in the United States.
"In the tomato suspension agreement case, our members are being besieged by a handful of wealthy Florida tomato grower/importers intent on reducing competition from their U.S. import competitors," the letter said. "In the meantime, this pursuit of a tomato cabal would needlessly raise prices on American families."
For their part, the Florida tomato exchange argues that the current suspension agreement has too many loopholes and acts as “cover for continued dumping,” according to a press release.
The current suspension agreement is set to end on May 7.