The Commerce Department has forged a tentative deal to lift tariffs on Mexican tomatoes with conditions that are designed to protect American producers. U.S. and Mexican officials arrived at the agreement just before the deadline was set to expire and will dictate that 66 percent of tomatoes coming from Mexico will be inspected before entering the U.S. as a means of ensuring quality. The deal is set to take effect beginning September 19 after the 30-day comment period.
“For many years, there have been disputes over the roughly $2 billion worth of tomatoes that are imported from Mexico annually,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement. “This draft agreement meets the needs of both sides and avoids the need for antidumping duties.”
As part of the deal, the U.S. will suspend the antidumping investigation that was levied on Mexican tomatoes. Mexican growers will be required to raise the price for specialty tomatoes under the new agreement, as well as charge 40 percent more for organic tomatoes compared to conventional. The draft agreement also permits the Commerce Department to audit at least 80 Mexican tomato producers each quarter.
The draft agreement has been established in response to the Florida Tomato Exchange’s request made to eliminate the 2013 Suspension Agreement on Fresh Tomatoes from Mexico, which was terminated back in May. The Florida Tomato Exchange expressed appreciation for the new deal, noting in a statement that “the agreement establishes unprecedented measures and enforcement provisions that will help protect American tomato farmers from injurious dumped Mexican tomatoes.”
The amount of tomatoes imported from Mexico into the U.S. has grown dramatically between 2002 and 2017, increasing 125 percent. At the same time, American tomato production fell by 34 percent as a result of less expensive competition. The new agreement looks to create a more even playing field and ultimately benefit both U.S. and Mexican producers.