USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack made it clear to reporters earlier this month that the U.S. is not satisfied with Mexico’s latest offer to compromise on its plan to restrict biotech corn imports, but the Biden administration has also sent that message to Mexico City as talks between the two countries continue, says Alexis Taylor, USDA’s new undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs.
“We continue to be concerned,” Taylor told reporters Thursday. “We have communicated that in a variety of forms to our counterparts in Mexico.”
Taylor said the USDA appreciates Mexico’s willingness to negotiate on its looming decree to ban imports of genetically modified corn, but U.S. officials are far from satisfied with the latest compromise offered by Mexican officials.
“We are receptive that they are willing to make progress on some of our concerns, but they did not meet all of our concerns,” she said.
Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard and other high-level officials met with Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai to present a compromise on the decree. They proposed delaying implementation for a year until January, 2025, reconsidering rejections of petitions for GM corn trait and exempting imports of feed corn from restrictions.
Critics of the Mexican proposal pointed out Mexico was still intent on barring its food manufacturers from using GM white corn. And U.S. industry groups continue to push for the Biden administration to file a dispute with Mexico under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
Taylor did not address a potential USMCA dispute, but stressed that both countries are still talking.
“We are continuing to engage with our Mexican counterparts to articulate our concerns and we want to find a resolution … in a way that lives up to the commitment they made under USMCA,” she said.
The U.S. exports about 3 million tons of food-grade corn – both yellow and white – to Mexico yearly and U.S. industry and government officials have stressed that any Mexican ban would result in food inflation in Mexico.
It’s unclear if Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador agrees, but he showed this week that he’s concerned about the rising cost of tortillas. Obrador issued a decree Monday to put a 50% tariff on exports of white corn until June 30 in an effort to keep the grain from leaving the domestic market.
“That the supply and production of white corn in our country are important factors in determining its price and, therefore, also of the various consumer products made from it, mainly tortillas, to guarantee a sufficient supply it is necessary to maintain national production in our country and ensure market conditions that allow stabilizing its price,” the decree states.