An agreement between the U.S. Department of Commerce and Mexican tomato growers is now in effect. It means the U.S. border is again open to Mexico’s $2 billion tomato export market.

While just about everyone is praising the agreement, there is some confusion about what it means for food safety. The pro-trade Fresh Produce Association of the Americas based in the U.S. said it was “profoundly concerned.” that inspection requirements would extend to 92 percent of all tomatoes from Mexico.

The Department of Commerce, however, said that percentage was over-stated because tomatoes on the vine are exempt from inspection at the border.

The agreement does mean Mexican tomatoes will benefit from the suspension of the antidumping duty (AD) that the U.S. imposed as punishment for Mexico “dumping” tomatoes on the market. When a product released on the market for less than its cost of production, economists say it’s being “dumped.”

“The Department’s action brought the Mexican growers to the negotiating table and led to a result that protects U.S. tomato producers from unfair trade. It also removes major uncertainties for the Mexican growers and their workers,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.

The suspension agreement eliminates the harmful effects of unfairly priced Mexican tomatoes, prevents price suppression and undercutting, and eliminates substantially all dumping while allowing Commerce to audit up to 80 Mexican tomato producers and U.S. sellers per quarter, or more with good cause.

The agreement also closes loopholes from past suspension agreements that permitted sales below the reference prices in certain circumstances and includes an inspection mechanism to prevent the importation of low-quality, poor-condition tomatoes from Mexico, which can have price-suppressive effects on the market.

The agreement stems from a Nov. 14, 2018, request from the Florida Tomato Exchange that Commerce terminates the 2013 Suspension Agreement on Fresh Tomatoes from Mexico.

On Feb. 6 Commerce notified the Mexican signatories that it would withdraw from the 2013 Suspension Agreement. On May 7 the 2013 Suspension Agreement terminated and, as a result, Commerce continued its AD investigation on imports of fresh tomatoes from Mexico.

Ross said tomato producers across America, including those in Florida, Texas, and Arizona, will benefit from this agreement.

The Enforcement and Compliance unit within the International Trade Administration of Commerce, which negotiated today’s suspension agreement, is responsible for enforcing U.S. trade law.

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