U.S. Hits Mexico on Trade Barriers

Article excerpt

Byline: Jeffrey Sparshott, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Bush administration yesterday attacked Mexican trade rules that affect U.S. exports of beef and rice.

U.S.-Mexican agricultural trade has doubled since implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994, but a string of disputes has plagued producers on both sides of the border and led to a rising chorus of complaints.

Yesterday's formal complaint by the United States at the World Trade Organization (WTO) starts a 60-day consultation period on Mexico's trade policy on beef and long-grain white rice, the U.S. Trade Representative's Office said.

"Since NAFTA, Mexico has become our third-largest market for food and agricultural products. It is unfortunate that we could not resolve these matters bilaterally. But we have been patient and now must ensure that the trade agreements are fully enforced," said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman in a statement announcing the WTO challenge.

The United States last year exported $829 million of beef products and $103 million of rice to Mexico, the trade office said. U.S. exports of all agricultural products to Mexico reached $7.25 billion last year, doubling since 1993, the year before NAFTA, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures.

The quick rise in exports of some products has caused some Mexican producers to seek protection.

Mexico in April 2000 said that U.S. beef was being dumped; that is, being imported below the cost of producing it. Last June, Mexico complained that white long-grain rice also was being dumped. Mexico followed with duties that limited the ability of U.S. producers to sell their products.

The United States also has had trade-related run-ins with Mexico over a sweetener commonly used in soft drinks, swine and poultry, and had already filed a case under NAFTA on the beef issue. …