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US: Tomato pact advocates warn of possible trade war with Mexico

An influential group of businesses, agricultural and food industry organizations warn that special interest efforts to abolish a 16-year U.S. tomato agreement with Mexico could lead to a trade war costing the American economy billions of dollars in exports and tens of thousands of jobs.

A growing number of industry leaders, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Restaurant Association, Wal-Mart and nearly a dozen meat, dairy and poultry producers’ organizations, is asking the Obama Administration to continue the long-standing agreement with one of America’s largest trading partners.

"A potential trade disruption with Mexico could have a devastating impact on U.S. farmers, manufacturers, and service providers and their employees who collectively export hundreds of billions of dollars in goods and services annually to Mexico," the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wrote in a letter to Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca M. Blank supporting continuation of the tomato agreement.

The U.S. Department of Commerce currently is reviewing the trade agreement. Advocates say the trade pact, known as the Tomato Suspension Agreement, has kept the prices of Mexican and American tomatoes on a fair footing in the marketplace by setting guidelines for Mexican tomato prices.

They also say that the agreement has also allowed consumers greater tomato selections, particularly in winter months when the vine-ripened Mexican tomatoes are available in U.S. stores.

"Termination of the tomatoes agreement will benefit no one and will lead only to uncertainty and unpredictability in the market," Wal-Mart officials wrote to the Commerce Department.

"The $100 billion U.S. produce market is now globally integrated, and up to $7 billion of the industry is comprised of fruits and vegetables from Mexico, affecting tens of thousands of U.S. workers," Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ) wrote in a letter to the Commerce Department. "Ending this agreement will put people out of work, reduce the variety and quality of tomatoes available to consumers and hurt all Americans by raising prices at the supermarket check-out line."

For more information:
Allison Moore
Tel: +1 (520) 247-9779

Publication date: 9/11/2012


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