Lawmakers are expressing relief that the Biden administration is taking the first steps toward a formal USMCA challenge to Mexico's planned ban on genetically modified white corn, but they stress they don’t want extensive delays that could harm U.S. corn farmers.

“We feel that there’s starting to be movement to get something done … however, this has got be expedited,” Rep. Randy Feenstra, R-Iowa, told Agri-Pulse on the sidelines of a Friday Ways and Means Committee hearing where the sole witness was U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai. “We’ve got to see a solution in the next six months.”

Tai also testified for hours Thursday before the Senate Finance Committee, in which lawmakers like Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, pressed her to move quickly on Mexico’s GM white corn ban.

While Tai promised Grassley that it is “not her intention to allow this to go on indefinitely,” she did not pledge to end the technical talks with Mexico as soon as possible. The technical consultations the U.S. requested fall under the sanitary and phytosanitary measures chapter of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement and they must last at least 30 days – in this case until April 7 but can be extended.

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USMCA gives the U.S. and Mexico "at least" 30 days of technical consultations, Tai told reporters. “You can take more time as well.”

At Friday's hearing, Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith, R-Mo., called the technical consultations a “critical step," but he also said he wouldn’t be satisfied unless USTR demands strict enforcement of USMCA rules on Mexico.

If the technical talks fail, the U.S. has the right under USMCA’s dispute settlement chapter to request a new round of consultations that could then lead to a third-party panel ruling on the dispute.

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