One economist in the Southeast is encouraged by the plan to address the threat of increased foreign imports to U.S. producers of seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Adam Rabinowitz, Auburn University Assistant Professor and Extension economist, believes the hearings held in August for Florida and Georgia producers opened communications and led to a report released by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Commerce, that could produce substantial change.
“It’s really encouraging to see that these hearings were not just a one off if you will, that produced a report and ended up going nowhere and closing communications. That did not happen,” Rabinowitz said. “It actually opened up the doors for continuing communications in the outreach programs, but also it mentions formal channels for stakeholders to actually provide information on where they’re seeing seasonal imports coming into the U.S., including those from Mexico; explicitly listed there, as being hurtful to U.S. production and U.S. producers. Opening that communication, creating those channels certainly has to feel like a win for Southeast fruit and vegetable producers.”
USTR Press Release
According to the USTR press release, the public hearings allowed more than 60 witnesses to testify, in addition to more than 300 written submissions.
The plan’s highlights include, the USTR will request the International Trade Commission to initiate a Section 201 global safeguard investigation into the extent to which increased imports of blueberries have caused serious injury to domestic blueberry growers. The same 201 investigation could be implemented later this year for strawberries and bell peppers.
“Section 201 is part of the Trade Act of 1974. It really allows the International Trade Commission to look at where domestic producers have been harmed by imports. They have to be seriously injured, meaning that level of injury to their marketing opportunities,” Rabinowitz said. “Typically, it must be completed within 120 days after filing. I don’t know if the initial report here was the day of filing, or if that’s going to follow.
“I think we can expect within the next 4 to 6 months to see not just the report from the International Trade Commission, but also the president has a limited time after that report comes to actually respond to that and either adopt remedies or make a decision from that. I think within the next 4 to 6 months we should see some activity that occurs, on the blueberry side at least.”
The plan also states that the USTR will pursue senior-level government-to-government discussions with Mexico over the next 90 days to address U.S. industry concerns regarding U.S. imports of Mexican strawberries, bell peppers and other seasonal and perishable products.
To read the full report, click here