US Reaches Deal with Mexico for Tomato Trade

U.S. finalized a deal with Mexican tomato growers that could lead to higher prices and lower-quality at the supermarket.

The U.S. Commerce Department on Thursday said Mexican growers had signed a deal that requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture to inspect round and Roma tomatoes and bulk grape tomatoes.

According to the agreement, the inspector will “normally arrive and complete the inspection within 24 hours.”

The Commerce Department said the inspections “prevent the importation of low-quality, poor-condition tomatoes from Mexico, which can have price-suppressive effects on the market.”

Some private companies were unhappy with the deal.

“Any delay in inspections would lead to quality degradation and added cost,” wrote James R. Bailey, senior director for federal government affairs at Walmart Inc., in a September letter to the Commerce Department. “Given the high quality and low failure rate of Mexican tomatoes, such intensive inspections do not seem proportionate to the risk.”

In the past Mexican tomato importers said the Florida growers have used their influence with the state’s lawmakers to push for advantages over Mexican competitors, but the participating countries seems happy with this deal.

Mario Robles of the Sinaloa tomato growers association in Mexico said, “We were able to secure a number of important provisions that will make this deal work for our distributors and customers.”

The Florida Tomato Exchange said it “includes strong monitoring, enforcement and anti-circumvention provisions, including border inspections, that should help eliminate the injury to American tomato farmers caused by dumped Mexican tomatoes.”

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross spoke highly of the deal.

“Today’s successful outcome validates the administration’s strong and smart approach to negotiating trade deals,” Mr. Ross said. “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.”

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