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As NAFTA Renegotiations Intensify, Rubio, Nelson Urge Senate Finance Committee to Support Florida Farmers

Apr 6, 2018 | Press Releases

Miami, FL — As the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) renegotiations continue, U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) today urged Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) to allow fruit and vegetable growers in Florida, and throughout the United States, “to use seasonal data to seek regional relief in antidumping and countervailing duties (AD/CVD) cases.” Including this in a modernized NAFTA will ensure fair competition for Florida farmers to continue feeding our nation with produce that’s “Fresh from Florida.”
 
Upon his return to Washington next week, Rubio will cosponsor the Self-Initiation Trade Enforcement Act (S. 2427), introduced by Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Richard Burr (R-NC). The bill would establish a Task Force within the International Trade Administration to help small and medium-sized businesses and farmers compete and succeed against unfairly subsidized and dumped foreign imports in the domestic market. The Task Force would identify imports with the potential to threaten domestic industries, conduct research, and make recommendations with respect to initiating trade enforcement actions.
 
Last August, Rubio urged U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to propose measures that would protect Florida agriculture from unfair trade practices. In September, Rubio laid out Florida’s priorities and urged Lighthizer to work to construct a new trade deal with our North American partners that modernizes and builds on the successes of the previous agreement while also securing critical changes for Florida.
 
The full text of the letter is below:
 
Dear Chairman Hatch and Ranking Member Wyden:
 
As the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) renegotiations near a potential end, we write to you to seek your firm commitment to support the inclusion in NAFTA of a mechanism to allow U.S. fruit and vegetable growers to use seasonal data to seek regional relief in antidumping and countervailing duties (AD/CVD) cases. To be clear, free trade is not responsible for the dramatic damage sustained by Florida’s fruit and vegetable farmers since NAFTA’s inception. Rather it is the lack of reasonable evidentiary standards and processes for seasonal and perishable producers to seek relief, as well as a lack of willingness from multiple Administrations to confront our trade partners, to ensure that U.S. farmers are able to compete fairly in our own domestic markets. The seasonal and perishable produce trade remedy proposal advanced by the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) in NAFTA renegotiations would solve this inequity and strengthen the NAFTA through enhanced free and fair trade.
 
As you know, the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (P.L. 114-26) set clear agricultural trade negotiating objectives for any Administration utilizing Trade Promotion Authority. Through the law, Congress specifically noted three priorities with respect to seasonal and perishable produce that USTR’s NAFTA provision strongly reflects including:

  • “eliminating practices that adversely affect trade in perishable or cyclical products, while improving import relief mechanisms to recognize the unique characteristics of perishable and cyclical agriculture”; 
  • “ensuring that import relief mechanisms for perishable and cyclical agriculture are as accessible and timely to growers in the United States as those mechanisms that are used by other countries”; and
  • “seeking to develop an international consensus on the treatment of seasonal or perishable agricultural products in investigations relating to dumping and safeguards and in any other relevant area.”

NAFTA has undoubtedly expanded U.S. agricultural exports, and that is a great result for American farmers. But our exports have succeeded at the expense of Florida farmers who have been systematically undercut at home by Mexican agricultural subsidies, poor labor standards, and seasonal dumping. USTR’s seasonal and perishable protection proposal would significantly benefit domestic growers by allowing them to more effectively challenge and compete with this flood of unfairly traded foreign produce. These benefits are not theoretical – just last week Florida’s bell pepper growers were denied protection from egregious Mexican dumping when the Department of Commerce declined to self-initiate an anti-dumping case. Had USTR’s provision been in place, it is possible that these growers would have been able to successfully meet the standards to petition the case directly rather than being wholly dependent on Commerce to self-initiate.

Once again, we seek your firm commitment to support the inclusion in NAFTA of USTR’s proposed mechanism to allow U.S. fruit and vegetable growers to use seasonal data to seek regional relief in antidumping and countervailing duties (AD/CVD) cases. Not only does the provision fulfill Congressional intent in the Administration’s utilization of Trade Promotion Authority, but the inclusion or exclusion of the provision will factor greatly in our decision to ratify a renegotiated NAFTA. On behalf of Florida’s diverse and unique agricultural sector, thank you for your consideration.