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Friday, April 5, 2019

Isakson, Perdue Argue for Seasonal Farmer Protections in Trade Agreement

Raise concerns with U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement in letter to administration

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and David Perdue, R-Ga., raised concerns with the administration’s lead negotiator for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade agreement regarding the need to protect Georgia farmers forced to compete with subsidized Mexican fruit and vegetable imports.

The senators joined a bipartisan group of colleagues in the Senate and House in a letter sent Thursday asking U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to address the legitimate concerns expressed by Georgia’s seasonal growers and to implement new rules to defend domestic seasonal and perishable produce from unfair trade practices.

“Fair, open and reciprocal trade is essential to America’s long-term economic success,” said Isakson. “I intend to do everything I can to help facilitate a level playing field for trade and ensure that hardworking Americans have the tools necessary to address unfair trade practices. Agriculture is Georgia’s largest industry, and our fruit and vegetable farmers are currently far too vulnerable to illegal dumping and other targeted efforts that undermine their ability to cultivate and sell their products at home and abroad. As members of Congress, we’re asking that America’s farmers have a seat at the table and the ability to air their objections to unfair foreign trade practices in a fair and open way.”

“Agriculture is Georgia’s number one industry and a major reason why our state continues to be the best state in the country in which to do business,” said Perdue. “The United States’ economy has evolved since NAFTA was signed nearly 25 years ago. As the Trump administration works to get a better deal for American workers and businesses, we must ensure that farmers and growers are treated fairly and have equal access across the world. It’s critical that we gain a level playing field that will allow our agriculture industry to compete globally.”

Providing a fair process for domestic seasonal fruit and vegetable growers to access the legal means to impose anti-dumping and countervailing duties “was not just an early objective of the administration’s North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) renegotiations, but was also referenced by Congress under current Trade Promotion Authority,” wrote the bipartisan members of Congress.  

“The [U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement’s] silence on the matter is significant and concerning,” the letter continues. “We strongly insist that the administration address this issue in a way that gives confidence to all seasonal growers that the federal government can and will act to counter legitimate injury from unfair imports from Mexico or any other country.”

A possible remedy would be to enact the Defending Domestic Produce Production Act, S.16, which Isakson has cosponsored, or through appropriate administrative action to establish equally effective, enforceable and durable remedies through existing trade authorities.

The letter was led by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and other members of Florida’s Congressional delegation. In addition to Isakson and Perdue, the letter was also signed by members of Georgia’s congressional delegation including U.S. Reps. Rick Allen, R-Ga.-12, Buddy Carter, R-Ga.-01, Sanford Bishop, D-Ga.-02, Jody Hice, R-Ga.-10, Austin Scott, R-Ga.-08, and David Scott, D-Ga.-13, along with other U.S. representatives from Florida.

The full text of the letter is online and included below.

Dear Ambassador Lighthizer:

We write to raise concerns regarding the lack of progress in the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) with respect to improved mechanisms to initiate and sustain legitimate anti-dumping and countervailing duties (AD/CVD) proceedings for trade in seasonal and perishable produce. As you know, providing a fair process for domestic seasonal fruit and vegetable growers to access genuine AD/CVD relief was not just an early objective of the Administration’s North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) renegotiations, but was also referenced by Congress under current Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). The USMCA’s silence on the matter is significant and concerning.

The President has consistently argued that reducing persistent trade deficits with America’s trading partners is an important goal in the pursuit of free, fair, and reciprocal trade. The U.S. agricultural trade deficit with Mexico has risen rapidly since NAFTA came into force, driven by growing Mexican fruit and vegetable exports buoyed by significant government subsidies and unfair pricing practices, among other factors. In 2016, the U.S. faced a $5.1 billion trade deficit in agricultural goods with Mexico. Fruits and vegetables made up the largest source of Mexico’s bilateral agricultural trade surplus at $11.2 billion, nearly $2 billion more than the bilateral U.S. trade surplus of meats, dairy, grain, and oilseeds combined. While the Mexican Government has refused to include a mechanism to correct this growing imbalance in the USMCA text, we still believe the Administration must ensure that clear rules are in place to defend domestic seasonal and perishable produce from unfair trade practices.

We strongly insist that the Administration address this issue in a way that gives confidence to all seasonal growers that the federal government can and will act to counter legitimate injury from unfair imports from Mexico or any other country. This could be accomplished by enacting the Defending Domestic Produce Production Act (S. 16 / H.R. 101), or through appropriate administrative action to establish equally effective, enforceable, and durable remedies through existing trade authorities. Those remedies must able to provide relief, as necessary and applicable, across a highly diverse suite of American seasonal producers.

Domestic seasonal and perishable produce growers deserve reasonable access to trade enforcement tools that are readily available to other agricultural and industrial producers in the U.S. Such an outcome would be good for American fruit and vegetable farmers, good for American families, and good for the nation’s food security. Moreover, a successful resolution of this issue would provide important support for the USMCA within the agricultural communities we represent.

We greatly appreciate your efforts to secure the strongest trade deals possible for the United States and your commitment to protect American workers and production capacity from unfair and illegal foreign competition. We look forward to working with you towards a successful resolution of this important issue prior to a USMCA vote.

Sincerely,

 

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