Southern U.S. tomato farmers scored a victory today with a long sought-after decision by the Commerce Department to reopen an anti-dumping investigation into Mexican tomato shipments.
U.S. producers have long argued that Mexican suppliers have been shipping tomatoes to the U.S. at prices far below fair market prices, but they could not do much about the issue because the two NAFTA countries continued to uphold a “suspension agreement” that prevented anti-dumping investigations.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said today that the U.S. is withdrawing from the agreement that was signed in 2013 by the two governments as well as Mexican tomato producers, who agreed to not sell their fruit into the U.S. at unfair prices. A similar agreement preceded the 2013 deal. The withdrawal will be finalized on May 7 and then Commerce will begin investigating. If investigators turn up evidence of Mexico dumping its tomatoes, a separate investigation will be undertaken by the International Trade Commission (ITC), which could lead to new tariffs on Mexican tomatoes.
“We have heard the concerns of the American tomato producing industry and are taking action today to ensure they are protected from unfair trading practices,” Ross said in a statement. “The Trump Administration will continue to use every tool in our toolbox to ensure trade is free, fair, and reciprocal.”
A representative of the Florida Tomato Exchange and the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association told the House Agriculture Committee during a 2017 hearing that Mexican exports caused between $1 billion and $3 billion annually in lost sales to U.S. producers by undercutting domestic prices.
Officials for the two groups were not available for immediate comment today, but input from the Florida Tomato Exchange was key to the Commerce decision to withdraw from the agreement, the department said.
Commerce said it reopened talks with Mexico on the suspension agreement, but “significant outstanding issues remained with respect to crafting a revised agreement that would be acceptable to the Mexican signatories and address the concerns of the U.S. domestic industry to the extent possible under U.S. trade law.”
For more news, go to www.Agri-Pulse.com