Senate passes USMCA by large margin

UPDATED: Members of the produce industry are praising U.S. senators for their overwhelming support of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

The USMCA passed 89-10 in the Senate Jan. 16, sending the post-North American Free Trade Act to President Trump.

“The USMCA includes important reforms that will ensure that the success of NAFTA will continue well into the 21st Century,” Tom Stenzel, president and CEO of United Fresh Produce Association, said in a statement. “The fresh produce industry is eager for the passage and implementation of the USMCA to ensure that the growth of trade over the last quarter century is sustained and that we build upon the investments made by businesses in all three countries.”

Jim Bair, president and CEO of the U.S. Apple Association, said Mexico and Canada are the top export markets for U.S. apples, with almost a half-billion dollars in sales each year.

Bair said the USMCA, like NAFTA, is good for the U.S. apple industry.

“Under NAFTA, apple exports to Mexico quadrupled and those to Canada doubled,” Bair said in a statement. “Maintaining the apple industry’s important trading partnerships with Mexico and Canada under the USMCA has been a top priority for the apple industry.”

The Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, Nogales, Ariz., which represents importers of Mexican produce, credited lawmakers for approving an agreement that didn’t include a “seasonal produce provision,” which would make it easier for U.S. growers to claim imports were harming their businesses.

“This agreement is a positive for consumers who will continue to enjoy year-round access to healthful fruits and vegetables,” FPAA President Lance Jungmeyer said in the release. “Once put in place, the USMCA will continue to strengthen U.S. businesses and trade in North America.”

California Fresh Fruit Association President Ian LeMay said the new agreement benefits California growers by improving market access.

“Mexico and Canada  have been vital trade partners over the years for our growers and shippers and the passage of USMCA out of the Senate today comes to the delight of the California fresh fruit industry,” LeMay said in a statement. “Our members look forward to continuing to provide the freshest fruit to consumers around the world.”

After the Jan. 16 vote, the Canadian Produce Marketing Association sent a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, calling for Canada to ratify the agreement, known as the CUSMA in Canada.

“Since the implementation of the previous NAFTA in 1994, Canadian fresh fruit and vegetable exports to Mexico and the U.S. have increased by approximately 396%,” CPMA President Ron Lemaire wrote in a letter to Trudeau. “This growth is indicative of the importance of tariff-free trade and the integration of our marketplace within North America and within the fresh produce industry.”

An integrated North American supply chain also ensures Canadian consumers have a supply of fresh produce year-round, according to the letter.

The Jan. 16 vote came the day after the U.S. and China agreed to a “phase 1” trade deal. While that agreement doesn’t drop tariffs on U.S. fresh produce sent to China, it promises to open markets for California hass avocados and nectarines, and U.S. blueberries, as well as fresh potatoes for processing in China.

Chris Koger

January 16, 2020 01:03 PM Published by