July 31, 2008

Mexican Produce Blocked From Entering USA

Text of report by respected Mexican business newspaper El Financiero website on 29 July

[Report by Elvia Gutierrez, Rocio Martinez: United States Hinders Entry of Mexican Products]

Ever since the North American Free Trade Agreement has been in effect, the United States has erected nontariff barriers to Mexican products that are competitive on its market, citing phytosanitary problems, environmental damage, and dumping.

The US Government's aim is to protect the country's businesses, and as a result it has repeatedly harmed the interests of Mexico's farmers and some segments of its industry.

Domestic producers of tuna, avocados, steel products, cement, and honey have all been hit by these unfair measures over the past 14 years.

The same has been the case with exports of cilantro, calves, mortars, jalapeno chile peppers, and tomatoes, not to mention typical dessert items such as "tamarind candy pots" and piquin chili peppers mixed with sugar.

The United States has engaged in protectionist practices against Mexican products precisely at a time when demand for these items is up more than 10 per cent and even in some cases nearly 200 per cent.

Mexican Products Targeted

We need only mention the case of Mexican exports of tomatoes to the United States. During the first third of 2007 they were up 7 per cent a year and during the same period this year posted an increase of 31.7 per cent, reaching 665,659,000 dollars.

They were then targeted, on the grounds that they contain salmonella, even though it was known beforehand that Mexican tomatoes are free of this bacterium.

According to the National Agricultural Council, the next move could be made against avocados and onions; exports of the latter were rising at 4.5 per cent a year but this jumped to 75 per cent as of April 2008.

According to the World Trade Organization, Mexico is not the only target of these protectionist measures by US authorities. China and Japan are too.

Protectionist Policies

When US demand for Mexican farm products rises, the US authorities immediately apply protectionist policies.

The five leading farm export nations are the United States, France, the Netherlands, Canada, and Germany, and they account for 35 per cent of total world agricultural trade. These markets therefore have a strong capacity to set restrictive conditions on world trade.

During the two decades that the United States had an embargo on tuna, losses totalled 3bn dollars, according to data from the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources.

During the first year that tariff barriers were eliminated on avocados, exports increased 87.5 per cent to more than 617m dollars by the close of 2007.

Most of the policies pursued against Mexican exports have focused on farm products, inasmuch as according to the WTO, sanitary issues are the only grounds on which foreign trade can be restricted.

Given that Mexican cement is very competitive on the US market, that country has imposed tariffs to curb Mexico's exports.

US officials argued that Mexican companies were engaging in dumping.

The US Government imposed tariffs to deal with the situation, boosting import duties to an average of more than 60 per cent; as a result, they could be as much as 26 dollars a ton.

The most recent measures taken against Mexican farm products are related to the heavy US purchases of Mexican tomatoes, which total more than 1.2bn dollars a year.

Originally published by El Financiero website, Mexico City, in Spanish 29 Jul 08.

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