A powerful Mexican agricultural lobby says that the United States has backed down on contentious North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to impose restrictions on Mexican agricultural exports.
A senior executive at Mexico's National Agricultural Council (CNA) said that the Trump administration has decided to not press Mexico to restrict the import of some seasonal produce.
"Our U.S. counterparts tell us that ... the United States has decided to withdraw (the proposal) from the table," Mario Andrade, CNA vice president for foreign trade, told Reuters on Sunday. The issue had been as controversial as Trump’s request that North American produced automobiles be at least 50 percent U.S.-made, a clause the administration had to drop months ago.
The Agricultural Technical Advisory Council has been trying to get the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to drop the demand since last January, as had Canadian chief NAFTA negotiators.
Meanwhile, Florida tomato growers highly favored the “seasonal demand” clause who said their produce was being undermined by Mexican imports.
The ‘seasonal demand’ provision would have changed tariffs and anti-dumping rules on potatoes, apples, tomatoes, avocados, bell peppers, watermelons and various berries entering the U.S. to restrict competition from Mexico.
Andrade said the "seasonality" demand stood to benefit a small fraction of U.S. agricultural producers while putting many others at risk from Mexican retaliation.
Robert Lighthizer from the USTR could not be immediately reached for comment regarding the U.S. pivot on agricultural trade.
Talks to rework the 24-year-old have been going on for a year and are entering a crucial phase, said Mexico’s Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo. The minister said the existing bilateral issues between Mexico and the United States could be resolved by the middle of this week.
While Mexico and the U.S. have been engaging in continual NAFTA talks over the past month, Canada has not been present. Some have said that’s because Trump has deliberately tried to remove them from the talks for the time being.
“We’re not negotiating with Canada right now,” the U.S. president said last week. The head of state complained, “Their tariffs are too high, their barriers are too strong, so we’re not even talking to them right now. But we’ll see how that works out. It will only work out to our favor.”
Asked about Trump’s remarks Thursday, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Ottawa’s officials remain in touch with their American and Mexican partners.
"Minister Freeland, Ambassador (David) MacNaughton and the Canadian negotiating team are in regular contact with their counterparts and we look forward to continuing these important discussions in the coming weeks," Adam Austen Press Secretary to the Minister of Canada’s Global Affairs told the Financial Times on Friday.