After Agreement Ends, Mexican Tomato Growers Sue U.S.

Published: Tuesday, May 14, 2019 - 6:24pm
Updated: Wednesday, May 15, 2019 - 9:09am
Murphy Woodhouse/KJZZ
Workers sort through tomatoes at a packing plant in southern Sonora, Mexico.

Mexican tomato growers are hoping the U.S. Court of International Trade court blocks a recently restarted anti-dumping investigation and the collection of steep duties.

That’s according to a lawsuit they filed against the U.S. government on May 9, just two days after the U.S. Department of Commerce terminated the tomato suspension agreement. Mexican tomatoes are now subject to a nearly 18% duty.

The suspension agreement set floor prices for tomato imports and also paused the dumping investigation, which dates back to 1996. The growers said that Commerce had no grounds to restart the case or impose duties and that there are no records of Mexican growers violating the agreement’s terms.

In their complaint, the Mexican growers say that Commerce has documented 62 alleged violations of the suspension agreement, out of more than 50 billion transactions since 2013. Most were labeling issues, they said.

“It seems to us that this appeal is basically a litigation tactic, intended to muddy the waters and further delay any serious renegotiation of the suspension agreement,” said Michael Schadler, vice president at the Florida Tomato Exchange, which is a defendant in the case.

Negotiations for a new deal have also had a rocky week since the agreement ended. Last Friday, the Mexican growers rejected a proposal from Commerce. In a release, they said it would take away the rights of grocery stores and others to “reject tomatoes with condition defects.”

The FTE disputes that concern.

“They asked for things that it was impossible for us to comply with,” said Manuel Cazares, vice president of one of the Mexican grower groups. He also said his industry has made many concessions to Florida grower demands.

Both sides say they are committed to continued negotiations.

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