As tomato growers in Florida and some other states fight a 16-year-old agreement that they contend allows farmers in Mexico to export tomatoes at a price below their costs, the Mexican farmers are finding allies in the United States.
The trade dispute highlights the network of interlocking interests between the countries under the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trade across the Mexican border is now worth more than $1 billion a day.
American producers of corn, soybeans, apples, pork and chicken have increased sales to Mexico greatly over the years as trade barriers have been dismantled. But at the same time, Mexico has become a fast-growing supplier of produce to American supermarkets and restaurants. Tomatoes lead the list: exports have doubled and their value has tripled since the mid-1990s, to almost $2 billion.
That has been aided by a complex arrangement dating from 1996 that established a minimum price at which Mexican tomatoes are permitted to enter the American market.
Florida farmers are leading a campaign to persuade the Commerce Department to scrap the accord. They won a victory in September when the department announced a preliminary decision to end it. Lawyers in the case say a final decision may be issued in the next few weeks.
[Continued at the New York Times]