The Border Trade Alliance, a pro-trade advocacy organization representing public and private sector stakeholders, is applauding a bipartisan congressional coalition’s call to ensure that any so-called “seasonality” provision is not included in the ratified United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, the successor to the North American Free Trade Agreement.
A letter to United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer signed by 23 U.S. Senate and House members from Arizona, California, and Texas reads, in part, “Using USMCA as a vehicle for pursuing seasonal agriculture trade remedies risks pitting different regions of the country against each other.” The letter goes on to cite the numerous products that could be subject to price spikes, including watermelons, bell peppers, and blueberries.
A small but vocal group of growers from the southeast U.S. has been urging Congress and the administration to implement protectionist barriers to the importation of fresh produce from Mexico in order to give their commodities a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Produce interests from Florida and Georgia in May convinced the Department of Commerce to withdraw from the Tomato Suspension Agreement between the U.S. and Mexico, which governed tomato trade between the two countries since 1996.
The BTA and trade advocates have been strongly urging Congress and the administration to resist moves that would subject certain agricultural products to duties at various times throughout the year. A seasonality provision was not included in the USMCA agreed to by the U.S., Canada, and Mexico in 2018, but protectionist interests are continuing to press Congress to amend the agreement to dramatically curb fresh produce imports from Mexico.
“The BTA thanks the members of Congress from both parties who are standing strongly in favor of a USMCA that continues the tariff-free produce trade that has served U.S. consumers and growers well since the implementation of NAFTA,” BTA President Ms. Britton Clarke said. “The USMCA modernizes NAFTA for the 21st century and positions the U.S. for increased economic growth. Inserting seasonality into the USMCA would be a major step backward, causing prices to spike and risking retaliation from our trading partners.”
The effort on Capitol Hill was led by Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) in the Senate, and Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas) in the House.
“Cross-border commerce with Mexico is critical to Arizona’s economy and workforce,” McSally said. “Any seasonality provision incorporated into the USMCA would negatively impact Arizona’s hardworking families with higher costs at the grocery store and dinner table. I have expressed my opposition to such a provision to the administration and will continue to fight for Arizona jobs and families.”
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Border Trade Alliance