WASHINGTON, D.C.-The National Potato Council strongly supports the agreement between President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon to end the trade dispute that has plagued the industry for nearly two years. Since March 2009, U.S. potato growers have seen revenues from frozen potato exports to Mexico decline by more than $68 million, or nearly 50 percent.
"This agreement in principle represents an enormous step forward to restoring the strength and vitality of the U.S. potato industry," said NPC President Justin Dagen of Karlstad, Minn. "The potato growers of the U.S. applaud the diligence and persistence of President Obama to make this agreement possible and stand behind him to ensure a full and open implementation of the plan."
The United Fresh Produce Association is also voicing its approval. United Fresh Senior Vice President of Public Policy Robert Guenther releases the following statement on the announcement:
"We are extremely pleased to see what appears to be light at the end of the very long tunnel that was this trade standoff," said Guenther. "The retaliatory tariffs placed on fruit and vegetable shipments had a significantly deleterious effect on our members that export to Mexico, and we appreciate the business foresight of Presidents Obama and Calderon for moving toward a concrete and lasting resolution. This is an issue on which United Fresh and our membership on both sides of the border have worked extensively to resolve. We applaud the continued dedication of our members, our allies on Capitol Hill, and our Mexican counterparts, and look forward to providing comments on the proposed agreement to ensure that the final version is one that fosters the continued growth of fresh produce trade between our countries."
Mexico is the third-largest market for U.S. potatoes. In 2008, the most recent year unaffected by the dispute, U.S. potato growers exported more than $83 million in frozen potatoes to Mexico. In response to Congressional action to prohibit funding for a cross-border trucking pilot program, Mexico levied $2.4 billion in retaliatory tariffs in accordance with an arbitration panel's decision in 2001. U.S. frozen potatoes were initially subject to a 20 percent tariff level on March 23, 2009. The tariff was reduced on August 17, 2010, when the tariff list was rotated to include other agricultural and manufactured goods.