ITC Blueberry Determination Helps USMCA Move Forward

NOGALES, Ariz. –  The U.S. International Trade Commission has found that imported blueberries are not a cause of serious injury to domestic growers, an outcome that is applauded by the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas.

“The ITC’s determination spells future success for the recently negotiated U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA),” said FPAA President Lance Jungmeyer. “Had the ITC tagged Mexico or Canada for injury or trade remedies, this could have unraveled the promise of the trade agreement, because the proposal to a have seasonal produce tariffs was rejected by USMCA negotiators.”

While FPAA is pleased with ITC’s Feb. 11 determination, FPAA remains extremely concerned by the number of trade investigations opened recently by USTR on imported produce, especially key commodities from Mexico, our number one trade partner. Mexican tomato imports already face U.S. trade sanctions, and the ITC has initiated investigations on bell peppers, strawberries, squash, cucumbers and raspberries.

“By trade value, 42% of Mexico’s produce is under sanction or investigation by the United States,” Jungmeyer said. “Although we are heartened by ITC’s decision on blueberries, the previous administration left these investigations for the Biden Administration, which now must navigate a tenuous situation with Mexico, our top trading partner. The investigations that were requested by Southeastern growers were clearly the result of political pressure.”

Recently, Mexico’s Agriculture Secretary Victor Villalobos said that if Mexican produce were targeted for trade remedies such as tariffs or quotas, it would respond against US exports with “mirror policies.” 

Many US agriculture organizations recognized what was at stake when they signed a letter to USTR in December opposing the above-mentioned global safeguard investigations, and that tariffs on Mexican produce would result in retaliatory measures harming American farmers of grains, meats, dairy and other items. 

Beyond ITC’s ruling, the FPAA is hopeful that moderate voices on trade emerging within the Biden Administration will work to preserve the spirit of what was negotiated in USMCA.

“Rather than trade conflicts, we hope to see strengthened cooperation between the U.S. Mexico and Canada on agriculture, phytosanitary and border security issues,” Jungmeyer said, adding, “We need to get back to the business of feeding North America, keeping consumers supplied with affordable and nutritious foods. The complementarity of food supplies is why USMCA and NAFTA have been so positive for consumers and farmers.”

The Fresh Produce Association of the Americas was founded in 1944 to represent the business interests of US-owned distributors of imported fruits and vegetables. The FPAA includes many 3rd and 4th generation American companies who are bedrock employers in their community. 

SADER’s Victor Villalobos on Mexico’s “mirror policy” –

SUPPORTING DATA: Taken together, produce items under sanction or investigation by the US. represent 42% of the value of Mexico’s produce exports to the US. (See chart below)

 2019 Value (thousand dollars)
Tomatoes$                       1,958,173.00 
Cucumbers$                          556,215.00 
Bell Peppers$                          924,234.00 
Squash$                          371,869.00 
Strawberries$                          842,404.00 
Raspberries$                          912,187.00 
Total Sanctioned or Investigated  $                       5,567,101.00 
Total Produce Imported from Mexico$                     13,220,800.00 
Percentage of Investigated Produce42%
Source: USDA-FAS