The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on Sunday announced it would not open an investigation into Mexican fruit and vegetable imports into the United States.
In a news release, USTR noted that some members of Florida's congressional delegation had filed the Section 301 petition on September 8 alleging that the government of Mexico has adopted an "export targeting" scheme aimed at Florida produce.
USTR said, "The 301 statute requires that USTR make a decision on whether to move forward with an investigation within 45 days. The statute also includes a private-sector advisory panel as a specific response to export targeting."
"Although USTR could not conclude in the 45-day statutory period that a formal 301 investigation would be effective and is not opening an investigation at this time, USTR is moving forward with an advisory panel, and USTR and USDA will work with the petitioners and producers to examine the issues raised in the petition and to consider any further actions that may be appropriate."
USTR added, "The Biden administration recognizes that Southeast producers have faced challenges, which have only intensified since Hurricane Ian made landfall earlier this month. USTR will establish a private-sector industry advisory panel to recommend measures to promote the competitiveness of producers of seasonal and perishable produce in the southeastern United States."
"USTR and USDA will work with the advisory panel and members of Congress to develop possible administrative actions and legislation that would provide real benefits to this struggling industry."
USTR said it will publish a formal notice in the Federal Register summarizing its response to the petition.
Jim Bair, president and CEO of the U.S. Apple Association, said in a news release, "The U.S. apple industry is relieved by the U.S. Trade Representative's decision to reject the 301 Investigation on imported fruits and vegetables from Mexico."
"A Section 301 investigation could have been followed by tariffs on imported produce and, in turn, retaliatory tariffs from Mexico. That has happened in the past where U.S. apples were the targets of retaliation. We acknowledge that other sectors of the fresh produce industry are facing their own difficult challenges, but the U.S. Trade Representative came to the correct conclusion, and we are thankful."
U.S. Apple had joined other agriculture groups in a letter earlier this month to Trade Representative Katherine Tai strongly opposing any Section 301 investigation of fresh produce imports from Mexico. The agricultural groups stated such an investigation "would undermine our relationship with one of our largest agricultural trading partners and create a substantial risk of retaliatory actions, jeopardizing this critical market for U.S. agricultural exports."
"Mexico has long been the number one market for exports of U.S. apples, and that market is growing quickly," Bair said.
"Our exports to Mexico in 2021 totaled $349 million, up 45% from $241 million in 2020. Many of the 150,000 jobs supported by the apple industry would be put at risk by U.S. action that invites retaliation."
Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow him on Twitter @hagstromreport
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