Mexico seeks meeting with US over tomato trade conflict


Exports to the US of Mexican tomatoes like these, seen for sale at a Mexico City market on March 28, 2019, are a source of controversy between Mexico and the United States, for which Mexican Economy Secretary Graciela Marquez said this Tuesday that she has asked for a meeting with US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to discuss the conflict. EFE-EPA/Sashenka Gutierrez

MEXICO, CITY.- Mexican Economy Secretary Graciela Marquez said this Tuesday that she has asked for a meeting with US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to discuss the conflict over Mexican tomato exports.

«We have asked for a bilateral meeting with Secretary Wilbur Ross to deal with the tomato dispute,» Marquez, who this weekend will coincide with the US secretary at a meeting of business owners and executives in the southeastern Mexican city of Merida, told a press conference.

Next May 7, the US government will cancel the Suspension Agreement that since 1996 has regulated Mexican tomato exports to the United States.

With this agreement, the US opened the door to Mexican tomatoes as long as Mexican producers did not dump their product on the US market for less than the minimum price established by the United States, thereby harming US tomato growers.

The economy minister regretted that the cancelation of this accord «will establish new terms for selling tomatoes on the United States market» because limits will be established on export volumes.

And, she warned, it would affect 400,000 direct employees of Mexico’s tomato sector and 1 million indirect employees.

Marquez admitted that Mexican tomato exports do not depend on an accord between governments but on negotiations between Mexican growers and the US government.

However, Marquez is intervening to strengthen the likelihood that the US Commerce Department will listen to the demands of Mexican tomato producers, because an economy secretary should «provide support for all sectors of the country.»

«We’re optimistic that, as in past years, Mexican farmers will receive a satisfactory response that meets their expectations and that an agreement can be reached so that the export of Mexican tomatoes can stay the course over the coming years,» the secretary said.

At the same conference, Mario Robles, representing the tomato growers of Mexico, thanked the secretary for her intervention because her «backing is vital.»

He also said the producers intend to take part in an eventual meeting in Merida between Marquez and Ross.

«American growers blame the Suspension Agreement for their lack of competitivity without evidence and are looking for greater protection,» Robles said.

He added that US consumers prefer Mexican tomatoes for their «better taste» and sanitation standards.

According to the Mexican government, the Latin American country produces 3.5 million tons of tomatoes annually, of which 1.6 million tons are exported and close to 1.4 million tons of those go to the United States.

Tomatoes are the Mexican agricultural product with the third largest exports to the United States, surpassed only by beer and avocados.

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