USTR requests consultations with Mexico on biotech corn |

USTR requests consultations with Mexico on biotech corn

A slide shown by Mexican Sugar Chamber Executive President Humberto Jasso during a discussion last week on the North American sweetener market at the International Sweetener Colloquium in La Quinta, Calif. photo by Jerry Hagstrom, The Hagstrom Report
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative today announced that it is requesting technical consultations with Mexico under the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures chapter of the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement. These consultations regard certain Mexican measures concerning products of agricultural biotechnology.
USTR and the Agriculture Department did not use the word “corn” in their news release, but Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told The Hagstrom Report that the wording was a reflection of the view that the U.S.-Mexico trading relationship needs to be based on science, and any other basis “undermines trade.”
Vilsack, speaking at a news conference on the sidelines of the National Farmers Union convention in San Francisco, said maintaining the scientific viewpoint on genetically modified corn with Mexico and other trading partners is “an important principle for us.”
It is important, Vilsack said, that white biotech corn can be used in products sold in Mexico.
National Corn Growers Association President Tom Haag said today that NCGA is pleased the Biden administration has asked for consultations and noted, “The dispute over biotech corn stems from a 2020 decree by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador that sought to ban imports of biotech corn beginning in January 2024.”
“Mexico issued a revised decree in February that banned biotech corn for food usage and left the door open for a future ban on biotech corn for feed, effective immediately,” Haag said.
“We are pleased USTR is taking the next step to hold Mexican officials accountable for the commitments they made under USMCA, which include accepting both biotech and non-biotech commodities,” Haag said. “Mexico’s position on biotech corn is already creating uncertainty, so we need U.S officials to move swiftly and do everything it takes to eliminate this trade barrier in the very near future.”
U.S. Grains Council President and CEO Ryan LeGrand thanked the USTR for initiating the consultation with Mexico under USMCA “because it undermines U.S. corn’s access to the Mexican market.”“We have had a long and productive relationship with Mexico.” LeGrand said. “It is our No. 1 market for U.S. corn, and we support this action because it will likely be the most expedient way to ensure that positive relationship continues.”
A slide shown by Mexican Sugar Chamber Executive President Humberto Jasso during a discussion last week on the North American sweetener market at the International Sweetener Colloquium in La Quinta, Calif. photo by Jerry Hagstrom, The Hagstrom Report
The U.S. view is in obvious conflict with the Mexican view.
Speaking last week at the Sweetener Users Association meeting in La Quinta, Calif., Humberto Jasso of the Mexican Sugar Chamber said that the Mexican government’s revised decree should settle the issue, and that there should be no conflicts over the issue that would affect U.S.-Mexican sweetener trade. 
In a statement, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said, “The United States has repeatedly conveyed our serious concerns with Mexico’s biotechnology policies and the importance of adopting a science-based approach that complies with its USMCA commitments.”
“Mexico’s policies threaten to disrupt billions of dollars in agricultural trade and they will stifle the innovation that is necessary to tackle the climate crisis and food security challenges if left unaddressed,” Tai said. “We hope these consultations will be productive as we continue to work with Mexico to address these issues.”
In a formal statement, Vilsack said, “Mexico is an important partner, and we remain committed to maintaining and strengthening our economic and trade ties.”
“A robust, transparent agricultural trading relationship, founded on rules and science, is vital to ensuring food security, mitigating the lingering effects of food price inflation, and helping to address the climate crisis,” Vilsack said.
“Innovations in agricultural biotechnology play a key role in advancing these critical, global objectives. While we appreciate the sustained, active engagement with our Mexican counterparts at all levels of government, we remain firm in our view that Mexico’s current biotechnology trajectory is not grounded in science, which is the foundation of USMCA.”
The announcement won praise from Republican senators.
Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., ranking member on the Senate Agriculture Committee, said, “Trade agreements are meaningless if our partners refuse to abide by them.”
“Mexico’s attempts to ban U.S. biotech corn is a clear-cut example of a partner going back on its word. We have an obligation to ensure American producers are given the fair access to markets they were promised.”
“Ambassador Katherine Tai and her team ought to be commended for standing up for American farmers and taking the necessary actions to hold Mexico to the agreement they signed,” Boozman said.
“The science and safety of these technologies are beyond dispute, and I am pleased this process is getting underway. I will continue to actively promote and defend science-based technologies to help America’s farmers and ranchers continue to feed, fuel and clothe the world.”
Rep. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., said, “I appreciate the Biden administration demonstrating it is taking this issue seriously by moving forward with technical consultations today.
“I’ve been clear from the start — the United States cannot accept Mexico’s unscientific ban against genetically modified corn,” Fischer said. “It’s a flagrant violation of USMCA, and if allowed would set a dangerous precedent for enforcement of U.S. international trade agreements.”
“Until Mexico relents, we should be prepared to pursue a full dispute settlement,” Fischer said.
USTR noted that the agency and USDA have had “extensive engagement” with Mexican officials over the issue.
USTR also said that on Jan. 30, “the United States sent a formal, written request to Mexico under the USMCA SPS Chapter (Article 9.6.14) for ‘an explanation of the reasons for‘ and ‘pertinent relevant information regarding’ certain Mexican measures concerning biotech products. Mexico provided a written response on Feb. 14, which will help inform technical consultations.”
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