By MARK LORENZANA
The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) of the United States rejected the new decree that Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) announced on Monday, Feb. 13, which walked back a deadline to allow transgenic corn for industrial use and animal feed in the country, but which retained the ban for human consumption.
After the publication of the new decree on the evening of Monday in the Mexican government’s Official Gazette of the Federation (DOF), the NCGA urged the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden to immediately activate a dispute under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
“As Mexico implements a new decree, the NCGA expands its call on the Biden administration to initiate dispute resolution under the USMCA,” said the NCGA in an official statement.
López Obrador likewise extended until March 30, 2024, the deadline for “the development and escalation of actions” that lead to eliminating the use of the herbicide glyphosate in Mexico.
“The integrity of the USMCA, which was signed by the President of Mexico himself, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, is at stake,” said Tom Haag, president of the NCGA.
For his part, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the United States is committed to preventing disruptions to bilateral trade between the two countries.
“The U.S. believes in and adheres to a science-based, rules-based trading system and remains committed to preventing disruptions to bilateral agricultural trade and economic harm to U.S. and Mexican producers,” Vilsack said in a statement.
In a January meeting with Mexican officials, the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) office said it was considering taking action under the USMCA over the dispute, which could cost the U.S. corn trade billions of dollars.
“We are carefully reviewing the details of the new decree and intend to work with USTR to ensure our science-based, rules-based commitment remains firm,” Vilsack said on Tuesday, Feb. 14.
At a hearing spearheaded by the United States Senate Agriculture Committee on Wednesday, Feb. 1, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Agriculture for Trade Affairs Alexis Taylor assured that the Biden administration would not accept López Obrador’s restrictions on transgenic yellow corn for animal feed and ban of GM white corn for tortillas and masa harina.
“In the talks I’ve had with my Mexican counterparts, we’ve talked broadly to include our exports of yellow corn and white corn,” Taylor said, when asked directly by Nebraska Republican Senator Debra Fischer regarding AMLO’s plans for the ban.
According to 2021 data, U.S. producers reached a record in corn exports to Mexico that year, amounting to more than 16.8 million tons, with more than 90 percent of those exports including transgenic yellow corn for animal feed, with the remaining 10 percent white corn for human consumption.
An official letter sent on Wednesday, Feb. 15, by members of the U.S. House of Representatives to US Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Vilsack also officially requested the United States to initiate a trade dispute under the USMCA.
“It is time to aggressively enforce the USMCA by initiating a formal dispute against these measures (by López Obrador). We must engage with the government of Mexico from a position of strength, not weakness. Time is of the essence as farmers prepare for the 2023 planting season,” read the letter, which was dated Wednesday.
The letter further detailed that the AMLO decree is incompatible with its obligations embodied in the USMCA, and that it is not based on science, and would have adverse economic effects on American farmers.
The letter was signed by Jason Hafemeister, acting deputy undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs, and by Congressman Adrian Smith from Nebraska, chair of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade.