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US lobby prevents the entry of Argentine lemons

The road to unlock the suspension of the entry of Argentinian lemons into the US, which the Trump administration sought after only three days in office, has become difficult because of the strong lobby of citrus growers in California and Arizona. The government of Mauricio Macri and producers from Tucuman are hoping the US government will allow these imports while American producers are working to ensure it doesn't happen. They are lobbying in Washington, not only in the heart of the Department of Agriculture but also in the White House, as they directly contacted the office of Vice President Michael Pence.

Chancellor Susana Malcora and Donald Trump's Secretary of State will meet on Thursday in Bonn (Germany) to begin outlining the details of a bilateral meeting between the two presidents. However, the ban on Argentine lemons will be a ghost at the feast in a meeting where trade and agriculture should play an important role.

The government of Argentina had a good understanding with the government of Barack Obama, to the point that Macri himself was in charge of the negotiations to convince the Democratic former executive management to unlock the ban on Argentine lemons that the Californian lobby had succeeded in imposing nearly 15 years ago. As a result of this negotiation, in October last year, the Minister of Production, Francisco Cabrera, and the government of Juan Manzur in Tucuman - the province that makes Argentina the leading producer and exporter of citrus- announced the end of the restriction. The final agreement that Trump halted was announced in December, however Argentina will only find out what will happen with this agreement in March.

December's agreement between the administrations of Obama and Macri raised the alarm for the American lemon producers. By January, they were applauding Trump. "President Trump campaigned on a platform to protect US industries from commercial packages that create unnecessary vulnerabilities for domestic production, business and jobs. The change he's made regarding Argentine lemons is a clear sign that he will try to keep his campaign promises," said the president of California Citrus Mutual (CCM), Joel Nelsen, who decided not to respond a series of questions posed by Clarin. "Even though the CCM can disagree with the position of President Trump on the negotiations of other agreements, such as the trans-pacific partnership agreement, which would benefit citrus growers, we support the efforts of the (US) administration to protect the domestic industry," he added.

In early February, Nelsen sent a letter to members of Trump's government, including Vice President Pence, asking them to delay the implementation of Obama's agreement favoring the entry of Argentine lemons. That weekend Vice President Pence called Macri and spoke to him about the G20. He was accompanied by lobbyists from Arizona, who 15 years ago also worked to impose the ban on Argentine citrus arguing that they had pests and diseases.

"We have to wait 60 days after the signature of the agreement by the United States. Technically, Argentina met and continues to meet the sanitary standards required internationally," said the the team of minister Ricardo Buryaile. Producers from Tucuman say that there's no reason for the ban to persist. If the Trump government doesn't enable the entry of lemons into the US, it would do so for political reasons as the country has already passed phytosanitary barriers. Argentina would be able to resort to the WTO, according to sources close to the negotiations. According to a producer from Tucuman, they interested in entering the US because of what it would imply in terms of brand (about US $20 million annually) and not because of the export volume it would represent for them, which is estimated at US $817 million a year.

Lemon producers from California and Arizona produce about 497.35 tons per year, worth US $ 647 million. The US lemon market is dominated by imports from Mexico and Chile with 46.37 tons.

Source: clarin.com

Publication date: 2/16/2017


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