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Florida Delegation Urges Commerce Department to Reject Effort to Undermine Trade Relief for Tomato Growers

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Members of the Florida delegation sent a bipartisan letter to U.S Department of Commerce Sec. Gina Raimondo urging her to reject a request for a Changed Circumstances Review which seeks to exempt certain greenhouse-grown specialty tomatoes from the 2019 U.S.-Mexico Suspension Agreement on Fresh Tomatoes from Mexico.

The letter was signed by U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Rick Scott, R-Fla., and U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Kat Cammack, R-Fla., Charlie Crist, R-Fla., Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., Neal Dunn, R-Fla., Scott Franklin, R-Fla., Carlos Giménez, R-Fla., Al Lawson, D-Fla., Brian Mast, R-Fla., Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., Bill Posey, R-Fla., John Rutherford, R-Fla., Greg Steube, R-Fla., Mike Waltz, R-Fla., and Dan Webster, R-Fla.

In the letter, the lawmakers note “the dismissal of the Changed Circumstance request is required to maintain the integrity of the 2019 Suspension Agreement and to prevent harm to domestic industries, which depend on strong enforcement of the Suspension Agreement to find relief from the persistent flood of unfairly priced Mexican tomatoes.”

The full text of the letter is below.

Dear Secretary Raimondo:

We write to urge the U.S. Department of Commerce to reject a request for a Changed Circumstances Review which seeks to exempt certain greenhouse-grown specialty tomatoes from the 2019 Suspension Agreement on Fresh Tomatoes from Mexico. There are no circumstances—whether changed or otherwise—to support such a request. The dismissal of the Changed Circumstance request is required to maintain the integrity of the 2019 Suspension Agreement and to prevent harm to domestic industries, which depend on strong enforcement of the Suspension Agreement to find relief from the persistent flood of unfairly priced Mexican tomatoes.

The assertion that the 2019 Suspension Agreement was not intended to impact imports of greenhouse-grown specialty tomatoes from Mexico is not correct. The scope of the 2019 Suspension Agreement unambiguously includes “all fresh or chilled tomatoes (fresh tomatoes) which have Mexico as their origin, except for those tomatoes which are used for processing.” As the 2019 Suspension Agreement clarifies, and as the Department of Commerce reiterated in its 2019 scope ruling, this scope includes all round, roma, and specialty tomatoes, whether grown in an open-field or a greenhouse. There is no question that the 2019 Suspension Agreement is intended to cover the greenhouse-grown specialty tomatoes that the Changed Circumstance request seeks to exempt.

The claim that greenhouse-grown specialty tomatoes “are not contributing to any injury experienced by U.S. growers” is similarly without merit. In fact, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC)—the U.S. governmental body statutorily authorized with making like-product and injury determinations—explicitly considered this very question in its continued investigation in 2019 and reached the opposite conclusion. After considering nearly identical arguments as those posed by the Changed Circumstance request, the USITC determined that the tomatoes covered by the scope of the investigation—which explicitly includes greenhouse-grown specialty tomatoes—constituted a single like product and that unfairly priced imports of that product from Mexico threatened the domestic industry with material injury. The Department of Commerce does not have grounds to alter the USITC’s unambiguous determination.

Moreover, the claimed distinction between “U.S.-grown round and roma tomatoes” and Mexican specialty tomatoes is a red herring. As Commerce is well-aware, U.S. producers grow many varieties of tomatoes, including specialty tomatoes. The scope of the Suspension Agreement covers all types of tomatoes precisely because, as the ITC has confirmed, U.S. producers face material injury from all fresh and chilled tomatoes imported from Mexico.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

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  • Florida Daily

    Florida Daily offers news, insights and analysis as we cover the most important issues in the state, from education, to business and politics.

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