Mexico's tariffs impacting U.S. agriculture, jobs

by Bryan Salvage
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WASHINGTON — March 10 marked the one-year anniversary of an ongoing trade dispute with Mexico that continues to put U.S. jobs at risk, according to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (N.C.B.A.).

This dispute began when Congress terminated funding for the U.S.-Mexico cross-border trucking pilot program in the FY2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act — a move that failed to meet U.S. commitments under North American Free-Trade Agreement (N.A.F.T.A.), and prompted Mexico to impose damaging retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agriculture and manufacturing goods.

“This dispute has been going on for far too long,” said Steve Foglesong, president, N.C.B.A. “It’s time for the administration to take action before the critical relationship with our top trading partner is further compromised, putting agriculture exports and imports, and American jobs, at risk.”

Congress addressed the issue by removing the prohibition on the trucking program within FY10 appropriations, but the administration has yet to make progress with Mexico in removing the tariffs. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates as many as 25,000 U.S. jobs could be lost as a result of the impasse.

Mexico is the top export destination for U.S. beef, dairy, poultry, rice, soybean meal and oil, corn sweeteners, cotton, apples and dry edible beans. The U.S. exported a record $1.4 billion in beef and beef variety meats to Mexico in 2008, and a total of $910 million in 2009 (as a result of the economic crisis). Mexico is also a major market for pork, corn, soybeans, eggs, vegetable oils, fresh U.S. potatoes, snack foods and other consumer-oriented agricultural goods. Trucks move more than 70% of the value of U.S.-Mexico trade.

“Escalating trade retaliations hurt everyone,” Mr. Foglesong said. “We live in a global society and our economy is inextricably linked to our ability to do commerce with key trading partners like Mexico.”

Earlier in March, a bipartisan group of more than 50 Members of the House sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Kirk and Transportation Secretary LaHood expressing concern about the Administration’s lack of progress in resolving this year-long issue. Click here to view the letter.
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