Obama administration asked to avert U.S.-Mexico tomato war

The U.S. Department of Commerce announced today that it is opening a review of a trade agreement that has governed the price of imported Mexican vine-ripened tomatoes since 1996. Florida tomato growers have recently spearheaded efforts to terminate the pact, known as the Tomato Suspension Agreement, which has kept the prices of Mexican and American tomatoes on fair footing in the marketplace by setting guidelines for Mexican tomato prices.

The Fresh Produce Association of the Americas has urged the Obama administration to oppose Florida special interest efforts, saying that terminating the agreement will “start a trade war that will disrupt a 16-year track record of success for bringing fair prices to consumers and healthy variety to family dinner tables.” Lance Jungmeyer, the president of the organization, added that “in this economy, the last thing we need is a trade war with our second largest trading partner that hits American families in the pocketbook.”

If Florida special interests successfully convince the administration to end the agreement, Mexico could retaliate against American agricultural exports to Mexico. Last year, the U.S. exported $870 million in poultry, $816 million in pork, $762 million in beef, and $39 million in potatoes to Mexico.

Supporters of the Tomato Suspension Agreement say that its termination will not only raise prices but will also reduce the variety available to consumers. “It would be against consumer interest to effectively pull these items from the shelf so that a narrow interest group can limit its competition through protectionism,” said Jungmeyer.

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