MCALLEN, RGV – Border trade groups and growers are celebrating a new deal on the importation of tomatoes from Mexico.

The U.S. Department of Commerce and tomato growers in Mexico reached a deal that will ensure that the import of Mexican fresh tomatoes into the U.S. remains duty-free.

Border Trade Alliance President Ms. Britton Clarke released this statement:

Britton Clarke

“The Border Trade Alliance applauds the Commerce Department and tomato growers in Mexico for their diligent work over the last several months to preserve the duty-free construct that has defined U.S-Mexico trade for decades.

“As we and our colleagues in the trade community have made clear, imposing duties on fresh tomato imports would not only have hurt U.S. consumers in the pocketbook, but it would have run completely counter to the spirit of binational cooperation imbued in NAFTA and now the USMCA, and would have severely complicated the new agreement’s fate on Capitol Hill.

“While we are relieved that new duties and higher prices will not continue to be passed on to U.S. importers and consumers, we are wary of any new mandated inspection regime that could dramatically slow processing times of tomato imports at U.S. ports of entry and put freshness and quality at risk. We will examine any new inspection mandate closely.

“Our sincere thanks to all of the Members of Congress who made their voices heard on behalf of free trade and U.S. consumers. The work of Sen. Martha McSally in particular is deeply appreciated, as she marshaled the opposition to an attempt by a small band of regional interests to tilt the rules of trade in their favor at the detriment of overall trade competitiveness.

“This is good news and we look forward to issuing a formal response during the upcoming public comment period.”

Clarke pointed out that BTA has been a “consistent voice” for the maintenance of the Tomato Suspension Agreement and duty-free agricultural trade between the U.S. and Mexico. Here are some of the previous BTA statements on the topic:

  • Border Trade Alliance statement on U.S. formal withdrawal from Tomato Suspension Agreement, imposition of duties
  • Commentary by BTA President Britton Clarke: Produce tariff hurts border
  • Produce section sticker shock: New study says duties on Mexican tomato imports mean big price hike for U.S. consumers
  • U.S. Agricultural Exports Put at Needless Risk by Small Group of Florida Tomato Growers, Trade Alliance President Charges
  • Large private-public sector coalition cites deep concerns over Department of Commerce decision to exit Tomato Suspension Agreement
  • Border Trade Alliance opposes Department of Commerce withdrawal from Tomato Suspension Agreement

Gonzalez’s Perspective

McAllen-based licensed customs broker, international trade consultant and Rio Grande Guardian columnist Adrian Gonzalez issued this statement about the new agreement:

“Our local tomato importers had a sigh of relief today when news came out that the tomato producer association in Mexico AMHPAC (Associacion Mexicana de Horticultura Protegida), came to an agreement with the United Sates Department of Commerce that prevented an increase to 25.3 percent duty from the 17.56 percent established in May, in addition to eliminating the duty altogether in the now more than decade long antidumping investigation.

Adrian Gonzalez

“At the beginning of the year the U.S. Department of Commerce, with pressure from Florida tomato growers, decided to move away from a previous agreement with Mexican tomato growers that prevented a duty to be placed on the fruit, commonly referred as the tomato suspension agreement. As a first action a preliminary duty of 17.56 percent was established and importers where paying it since. Now an agreement has been made that the duty will be eliminated and previous paid duties refunded with the condition that tomatoes will be sold at a higher minimum price as to reduce the impact to US growers and that tomato imports will be subject to additional screenings upon importation.

“An antidumping investigation is made when a product is presumed to be sold in the US at ‘less than fair value.’ At the beginning of the year the U.S. Department of Commerce found that was in fact the case with Mexican tomatoes, Mexican growers argued that the tomatoes where being sold at a lower price because of local efficiencies and better weather in Mexico, among other reasons.

“A 30-day comment period will follow before the agreement comes into effect, if there are not any other changes we will now have a new tomato suspension agreement but not all is good news, higher inspection rates will make importations more inefficient and we are yet to see the impact in sales from the agreed higher minimum price, any of that is still better than an extra cost of 25.3 percent.”