U.S. Agriculture Groups Urge Action as Trade Relationship with Mexico Declines

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A rapid deterioration of the U.S.-Mexico trade relationship is causing alarm within the U.S. agricultural sector, and industry groups are voicing concerns.

Dozens of leading food and agriculture associations, including American Farm Bureau Federation, recently sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, urging action to address issues undermining the trade relationship with Mexico.

Among the groups’ concerns are a ban on glyphosate and genetically modified corn; increased obstacles to dairy trade; an organic export certification requirement; a state-sponsored campaign disparaging U.S. corn sweeteners; barriers to new biotechnology applications; meat industry market access implications; a potato export ban; and a new labeling regulation. The letter said these issues, along with a high number of investigations on Mexico’s fresh produce exports to the U.S., hamper domestic competitiveness.

Mexico is within Virginia’s top five markets, as it is for most U.S. states, said Vilsack in remarks at the March 30 Governor’s Conference on Agricultural Trade, an annual event sponsored in part by Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

Vilsack said Mexico may be hesitant to accept unfamiliar agricultural innovations introduced by the U.S., which may explain some of the trade barriers.

“It’s important for us to be front-and-center with both Canada and Mexico about compliance with the USMCA,” Vilsack said at the virtual conference. “We have already reached out to their agriculture officials to encourage them to live up to the spirit of the USMCA. And we talked with Ambassador Tai about the importance of maintaining those relationships, making sure Canada and Mexico comply with their responsibilities under those agreements.”

U.S. goods and services trade with Mexico totaled an estimated $677.3 billion in 2019, according to the USTR. Exports were $289.5 billion; imports were $387.8 billion.

“U.S. agriculture built strong, mutually beneficial trade ties with Mexico through NAFTA and improved upon them with USMCA,” said Ben Rowe, VFBF national affairs coordinator. “However, recent moves by Mexico to limit American imports and undercut prices puts America’s farmers at a competitive disadvantage.

“Renewal of a healthy bilateral trade relationship requires prudent actions by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, USTR and our trade partners in Mexico,” he said. “We encourage these partners to work together to implement the terms of USMCA and ensure the economic vitality of the food and agriculture sector.”

AFBF President Zippy Duvall said enforcement of trade agreements with Mexico will “ensure farmers have a level playing field and continue to lead the world in producing safe, affordable food.”

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