WASHINGTON, Tue Oct 2, 2012 – U.S. business groups said on Tuesday they were worried about a damaging trade war with Mexico if President Barack Obama’s administration follows through on a preliminary decision to end a 16-year-old tomato trade agreement.
They also expressed concern that last week’s Commerce Department decision was politically motivated to sway voters in Florida, the second largest U.S. tomato producer and one of a handful of battleground states expected to play a decisive role in the November 6 presidential election.
“We think the U.S.-Mexico economic relationship is tremendously important,” Patrick Kilbride of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce told reporters on a conference call. “We don’t want to see another trade war ignited,” he added, referring to a previous dispute over cross-border trucking.
Florida tomato growers have pressed the Obama administration since June to terminate a 1996 agreement with Mexico on the grounds it fails to protect them against Mexican tomatoes sold in the United States below the cost of production.
Terminating the pact would clear the way for Florida growers, who compete with Mexico for the U.S. winter and early spring tomato market, to file a new anti-dumping case against their Mexican rivals.
Last week, the U.S. Commerce Department stopped short of immediately tearing up the agreement, but took a preliminary position in favor of ending the pact. It promised a final decision “as soon as practicable” and in no more than 270 days.