Nogales, AZ- A bipartisan group of 23 Senators and House Members sent a strong message to the U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer reiterating opposition to any attempts to reinsert a seasonal antidumping provision into implementing language of the US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.
The 23 Congressional Members representing Arizona, Texas, and California wrote, “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.
The seasonal provision was first proposed during negotiations of a new NAFTA where it was solidly rejected by Mexico, Canada and many U.S. agriculture groups, based on the fact it would create a precedent that could lead to tit-for-tat protectionist measures between the countries.
Despite the fact that a seasonality provision was not part of the USMCA signed by the three countries, a small but vocal group of companies from the southeast U.S. continue to look for avenues to advance the unpopular proposal in an attempt give their commodities a competitive advantage in the market at the expense of consumers and U.S. businesses in the fresh produce supply chain.
Tens and tens of thousands of jobs depend on produce imports from Mexico, noted the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas. In tomatoes alone, the University of Arizona recently showed that 33,000 jobs across the U.S. are supported directly and indirectly.
“We applaud this bipartisan coalition for recognizing the value that our industry brings to this nation in terms of jobs and economic impact,” said FPAA President Lance Jungmeyer. “Inserting special trade law changes for seasonal produce in the trade agreement would invite our trading partners to revise protections for their industries, and it would result in decreased trade in agriculture across the board.”
The Border Trade Alliance, a pro-trade advocacy organization representing public and private sector stakeholders also applauded the Congressional leadership. “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.”
Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), in her support of this effort, said, “Cross-border trade contributes billions of dollars to Arizona’s economy, and I will continue working to protect Arizona jobs from unnecessary trade restrictions.”
About this issue, Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ) said, “Cross-border commerce with Mexico is critical to Arizona’s economy and workforce. 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.”
Congressman Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX) was a co-lead on the letter. “Those of us from border states live and breathe international trade,” said Congressman Gonzalez. “Our region has reaped the benefits of free and fair trade. But neither our communities nor our country can afford disruptions in the American produce supply chain, closures of Texas businesses or increased prices at the grocery store. That’s why my colleagues and I have teamed up to advise the administration against including a seasonality provision in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.”
Congressman David Schweikert (R-AZ) also supports this effort to defend trade. “Arizona and its citizens benefit greatly from trade with its neighbors, especially in the months where our temperatures prevent growth for fruits and vegetables.” said Congressman David Schweikert. “My colleagues and I are continuing to fight against harmful seasonality provisions. We are working to make sure that a seasonality provision is not included in the final United States, Mexico, and Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA), as this would harm U.S. consumers and run counter to our beliefs in supporting free and fair trade. I look forward to helping implement the USMCA agreement that will bring strength and prosperity to our economy, without a seasonality provision.”
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. Other cosigners include John Cornyn (R-TX), and Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28), Will Hurd (R-TX-23) Andy Biggs (R-AZ-5), Debbie Lesko (R-AZ-8), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-2), Greg Stanton (D-AZ-9), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ-7), Randy K. Weber (R-TX-14), Filemon Vela (D-TX-34), TJ Cox (D-CA-21), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ-1), Jim Costa (D-CA-16), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX-30), Devin Nunes (R-CA-22), Julia Brownley (D-CA-26), Joaquin Castro (D-TX-20), and Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ-3).