By Clint Thompson
Wednesday, July 1 marks a new era for North American Trade.
The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) will enter into force July 1. But according to economists and industry leaders, the agreement still does not provide much protection for vegetable and specialty crop producers.
Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association President Mike Joyner:
“When Congress passed USMCA, we unfortunately did not get the provisions we were hoping for in USMCA. The Florida delegation, to the person, hung together. Because they hung together, we were able to get a commitment from Ambassador (Robert) Lighthizer to come up with a plan as to how we’re going to address this issue,” Joyner said. “We felt like that was a strong commitment. It’s in writing. We trust Ambassador Lighthizer. Right now, all indications are USMCA will go into effect July 1.
“If you go back and look at the letter, the commitment that the delegation was able to get, that within 60 days of entry into force, Ambassador Lighthizer has to have a plan. We’ll present some information to the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office that they need to consider. It’s data that clearly shows what’s happening with Mexican produce. We’re hoping that over the next two or three months, we can work with Ambassador Lighthizer and his team and come up with something that will help solve this issue.”
University of Georgia Extension Ag Economist Adam Rabinowitz:
“The concern with the USMCA, in terms of specialty crops, is that there are a lot of lower priced crops, low cost labor in Mexico that are coming into the U.S. and competing with southeast fruits and vegetables. There was hope that there would be some restrictions or some assistance that would help with the ability to compete with those Mexican imports. But there was nothing within that. As a result, it’s looking like there’s going to be a challenge in terms of being able to compete on price with the southeast fruits and vegetables with the imports from Mexico.”
Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Association:
“It’s insulting to the specialty crop growers who are suffering with COVID-19. It’s taken away markets. Then on top of that, we’ve got Mexican products coming in on top of us to drive the prices even further down.”
According to the USMCA press release, the agreement marks the beginning of a historic new chapter for North American trade by supporting more balanced, reciprocal trade, leading to freer markets, fairer trade, and robust economic growth in North America. However, Southeast farmers still will compete against imports of Mexican produce.