WASHINGTON, D.C. - Oregon Congressman Bob Smith, Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, today praised Mexico's decision to import cherries from Oregon, Washington, and California, accepting a phytosanitary dispute resolution under terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
"There's no question that Mexico had no scientific basis for excluding U.S. cherries. Eight months ago, a NAFTA dispute resolution panel ruled that Mexico could not back up its claims. This is important because, in this instance at least, the system seems to have worked. Exports are, after all, the future of American agriculture. Our farmers and ranchers can compete with anyone in the world, as long as they're given a fair shake in foreign markets. At least this time, NAFTA seems to have helped U.S. producers successfully challenge an unfounded non-tariff trade barrier," Smith said.
Mexico first closed its market to U.S. cherries in 1991, citing concerns about two pests - the apple maggot and plum curculio. In June of 1996, a NAFTA phytosanitary dispute resolution panel ruled that Mexico's concerns about the two pests could not be scientifically justified. Even after the panel's decision, Mexico continued to insist that fumigation was necessary to adequately protect against the pests. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that Mexican market access will result in several million dollars of increased revenue for U.S. cherry growers. The United States will begin exporting cherries from California in mid-April and from Oregon and Washington at the end of May.
Smith has pledged to make increasing agricultural exports a principal focus of the Agriculture Committee in the 105th Congress, and will hold oversight hearings into the effects of both NAFTA and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) on American agriculture.
Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. The district, which includes most of eastern, southern, and central Oregon, is heavily dependent on agriculture.