By: Doug Palmer, Politico
The United States intends to withdraw from a six-year-old trade agreement with Mexico on tomatoes to clear the way to impose new duties, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Thursday.
The decision stems from complaints from American tomato producers about being undercut by imports, Ross said in a statement. “The Trump administration will continue to use every tool in our toolbox to ensure trade is free, fair, and reciprocal,” he said.
The move, which takes effect on May 7, comes as the White House is trying to shore up support in Congress for approving the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Withdrawing from the tomato pact in order to restart anti-dumping proceedings against Mexico addresses some complaints from lawmakers as the administration works to round up votes for the new trade deal.
Forty-six members of the House and Senate wrote to Ross last week urging him to take the action. More than half came from Florida, a state important to President Donald Trump's reelection hopes.
The lawmakers complained that Mexico's share of the U.S. tomato market has risen from 32 to 54 percent since 1996, when an earlier tomato trade agreement went into force.
"Three different agreements have already been negotiated over the last 22 years because each previous agreement had failed to work as intended," the lawmakers wrote. "Small family been hit particularly hard ... The industry will continue to shrink if the status quo is maintained."
The 2013 agreement, like the two others before it, "suspended" an anti-dumping investigation requested by Florida tomato producers in exchange for Mexican growers agreeing to certain restrictions. However, Florida producers have once grown unhappy with the arrangement and formally requested the Commerce Department in November to withdraw from the pact and restart its anti-dumping investigation…