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U.S. and Mexico: U.S. Potato Trade Ruling

The Historical Trends of U.S.-Mexico Potato Trade

Twenty years ago, the U.S. agreed to open trade to Mexican avocados in exchange for U.S. potatoes. While Mexican avocado imports increased, U.S. potatoes were still unable to make their way across the border. The Mexican government finally opened their country to U.S. potato exports in 2011, but with limited access of up to 26 kilometers past the border. Since this decision, numerous legal cases have been filed by the Mexican potato industry to protect their domestic monopoly and prevent import competition. The Mexican potato cartel ‘CONPAPA’ stated that the government does not have the authority to determine whether or not agricultural imports can cross into their borders. These cases made their way to the Mexico Supreme Court in 2018. 

Mexico Supreme Court Rules in Favor of U.S. Potato Exports

The Mexican Supreme Court issued a draft ruling prior to the actual vote. The draft ruling was released on February 17th and rejected the cases filed by Mexican potato farmers and supported full access to export trade for U.S. potato farmers. The Mexican Supreme Court was expected to rule on the issue on February 24th, 2021, however, the ruling was indefinitely postponed.

On March 28th, 2021, Mexico’s top court issued a final five-to-zero ruling that would officially allow U.S. potato exports full access to trade with Mexico—a ruling that was twenty years in the making.

However, since the ruling, the Mexican government has yet to follow through in allowing increased access to U.S. potato import trade.

On July 7th, 2021, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai met with government officials and reportedly pressed them on progress updates regarding the potato trade ruling. Her commitment to upholding the court ruling was welcomed news to the industry and a reminder that they have not been forgotten.

“U.S. potato growers appreciate the continued vigilance of Ambassador Tai and Secretary Vilsack to ensure this 20-plus year potato market access dispute finally crosses the finish line. Over the past two decades, we’ve heard Mexico make numerous promises about living up to their end of trade agreements only to backtrack under domestic political pressure and continue to prevent fresh U.S. potatoes from gaining full access to their country. We continue to urge the Ambassador and Secretary to maintain a ‘trust but verify’ stance with Mexico to ensure their market isn’t just temporarily opened, but instead remains open to high-quality fresh U.S. potatoes.”

Kam Quarles, CEO of National Potato Council

The Impact on U.S. Potato Growers

As the third-largest export market for U.S. potatoes, Mexico is a major part of the U.S. potato export trade. The U.S. currently exports an estimated $60 million worth of fresh spuds each year to Mexico despite existing trade barriers. According to the National Potato Council, the market potential for full U.S. fresh potato access for Mexico is estimated at $200 million per year in five years.

The 2021 ruling is a stepping stone towards a more fair and competitive market for U.S. potato farmers. As an advocate for a thriving future for American agriculture, AgAmerica will continue to monitor developments of this ruling and provide updates as events unfold through our trade and legislation page.

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