Cantwell Applauds Deal to End Mexican Tariffs on Washington Products

Tariffs had hurt Washington state agriculture jobs, with exports dropping $82 million over 2 years

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) applauded the signing of a deal today between the U.S. and Mexico to end Mexico’s 2009 retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods. U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and his Mexican counterpart signed the deal today, which reduces all punitive tariffs by 50 percent within 10 days, and instates a plan to eliminate the other 50 percent shortly after authorization of the first Mexican carrier.

The Mexican tariffs on potatoes, pears, apples, and other food goods took a toll on Washington state’s agriculture industry. Since the tariffs have been in place, state exports have dropped by at least $82 million, according to the Washington State Department of Commerce. Washington farmers have seen a $39 million decline in potato exports, a $39 million drop in pear exports and $2 million declines in both cherry and apricot exports.

“This is a major step forward for Washington state agriculture,” said Senator Cantwell. “Today’s deal between the United States and Mexico to end these harmful tariffs on our agricultural exports is great news for Washington state farmers. With the removal of these barriers, Washington farmers will be better able to compete fairly in the Mexican market.”

The fiscal year 2009 Omnibus appropriations bill prohibited the Department of Transportation from expending funds on a program to allow Mexican trucks into the United States, in contravention of the requirement to allow Mexican trucks into the United States negotiated as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). When the pilot program allowing Mexican trucks in the United States ended, Mexico imposed retaliatory tariffs on 89 U.S products, including pears and potatoes, and those tariffs have since been rotated to include apples, certain cheese products, and a variety of other agricultural items.

Cantwell has long fought to resolve the Mexican trucks dispute and to improve Washington farmers’ access to the Mexican market. In March 2010, Cantwell questioned U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk on the administration’s plan for assistance on the issue [questioning starts at 4:19]. She also led a letter to President Obama in September 2009, explaining the disproportionate impact the tariffs are having on Northwest farmers and businesses. In April 2009, Cantwell sent a letter to President Obama requesting he discuss the issue with the President of Mexico.