Background

Trade measures against Mexico, including higher tariffs, could be the result of a new petition alleging unfair trade practices by that country.

A bipartisan group of members of Congress filed with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative Sept. 9 a petition requesting that USTR conduct a Section 301 investigation into “the flood of imported seasonal and perishable agricultural products from Mexico, specifically, fruits and vegetables grown with subsidized horticultural infrastructure and other forms of Mexican government support.” The petition said the Mexican government’s “scheme to subsidize the development, operation, and expansion of an export-oriented protected seasonal and perishable agricultural industry is an unreasonable practice that constitutes export targeting” under Section 301.

The petition added that as a result of this scheme Mexico’s share of the U.S. market in several primary seasonal and perishable products has increased by 160 percent over the past 15 years while Florida’s share has fallen by 36 percent. This shift is “a direct threat” to the Biden administration’s intention to “protect and reinvigorate critical supply chains within the U.S.,” lawmakers said, because it “endangers the long-term food security of the U.S. and raises the prospect that Mexico will become an unchallenged hegemon in the winter and spring fruit and vegetable supply chain, with the ability to set market prices that harm American consumers.”

The petition requested that USTR use its “broad authority to investigate and redress unreasonable trade practices that burden and restrict U.S. commerce” under Section 301 and work with the petitioners to “secure the relief needed to sustain the Florida seasonal and perishable agricultural industry.” While the petition did not request any particular relief, Section 301 authority has been used in recent years to impose higher tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of imports from China, European Union member countries, and others.

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