Dec 3, 2019Michigan cherry growers rally against Turkish cherry exporters
U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Michigan, testified Dec. 3 at a U.S. International Trade Commission hearing in Washington, D.C., in support of Michigan cherry growers’ efforts to ensure a level playing field and hold Turkish tart cherry exporters accountable for continually using unfair trade practices.
According to a news release, Peters reaffirmed his support for the International Trade Commission’s (ITC) preliminary decision to impose tariffs targeting the Turkish cherry industry and advocated for a final determination in line with their preliminary decision. Earlier this year, Peters supported the Dried Tart Cherry Trade Committee’s anti-dumping and countervailing duty petitions with the ITC and the U.S. Department of Commerce.
“Michigan’s farmers, manufacturers and small businesses should be able to focus on making the world’s best products instead of trying to navigate international trade bureaucracy,” Peters, a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said during his testimony. “That is why I applauded the ITC’s preliminary determination that confirms what we’ve long known – our Michigan cherry growers are being regularly undercut by unfair competition from Turkey. I’m glad that steps are now being taken to protect a key part of Michigan’s economy, and I implore the Commission to issue a final determination that will help level the playing field for Michigan cherry growers.”
In February, Peters reintroduced the Self-Initiation Trade Enforcement Act with U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, to establish a task force within the U.S. Department of Commerce to investigate potential trade abuses throughout the international marketplace. The bipartisan measure would also better ensure that the Department has the resources needed to support American businesses looking to expand both here at home and throughout the international marketplace.
While the Commerce Department holds the right to self-initiate antidumping and countervailing duty investigations, the power is rarely exercised. Peters’ bipartisan legislation is modeled after a recommendation within the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission’s (USCC) 2016 report to Congress, and would help reduce the negative effects on targeted businesses. The Self-Initiation Trade Enforcement Act would create a team solely focused on studying trade data and subsequently listing potential disturbing trade patterns for formal investigation, with an emphasis on cases impacting small and medium-sized businesses.
Peters previously discussed the issue of cherry dumping directly with President Donald Trump, who called Peters’ legislation “a fantastic idea,” according to the news release.
Last month, Peters discussed his efforts to support Michigan cherry growers during a roundtable discussion in Traverse City. Peters also toured Shoreline Fruit’s facilities in Williamsburg, Michigan this past April and highlighted his efforts to target unfair trade practices by foreign competitors that undercut Michigan businesses and agricultural producers.
The text of Peters’ testimony as prepared for delivery is copied below and available here:
“Thank you Chairman Johanson and Members of the Commission for convening this critical hearing.
“I am honored to stand with cherry growers from my home state of Michigan and I appreciate this opportunity to testify about an issue that is negatively impacting our state, the dumping of dried tart cherries from Turkey.
“Michigan produces more than 70 percent of the nation’s tart cherries. Unfortunately, Michigan cherry growers have been forced to compete with heavily government subsidized cherry products from Turkey. In Traverse City, host to the annual National Cherry Festival, many cherry growers have faced and are continuing to face financial ruin.
“Whether it was during my visit to Shoreline Fruit in Williamsburg or during a meeting last month in Traverse City, I have heard the same feedback repeatedly. Michigan producers have suffered from “dumping” of Turkish cherry products for years – resulting in a significant drop in the price of their products. For example, Turkey exported about 1.5 million pounds of dried tart cherries to the U.S. in 2018, more than three times as much as it did in 2016 and at rate of 500-600% of what the market would expect.
“That is why I applauded the ITC’s preliminary determination that confirms what we’ve long known, our Michigan cherry growers are being regularly undercut by unfair competition from Turkey.
“It is past time that the playing field is leveled and I’m glad that steps are now being taken to protect a key part of Michigan’s economy. However, Michigan cherry growers, who are already under tight budgets, should not have to pay millions of dollars just so they can compete in what should be a free marketplace.
“That is why I reintroduced my bipartisan legislation – the Self-Initiation Trade Enforcement Act. This legislation would give the Commerce Department greater ability to self-initiate action against trade abuses, like those we have seen from Turkey. Michigan’s farmers, manufacturers and small businesses should be able to focus on making the world’s best products instead of trying to navigate international trade bureaucracy. Moreover, bad actors should be held accountable.
“Turkish tart cherry exporters should finally face the stiffest of tariffs for their unfair trade practices that have undermined Michigan cherry growers. We must also prevent bad actors from exploiting trade loopholes. To the maximum extent of the law, tariffs should apply to Turkish cherries that have been further processed in a third country. We know that Turkish cherries have been sent to Brazil where they have undergone minor processing in order to avoid facing the consequences of our laws.
“Failing to address this loophole will only encourage what is tantamount to whack-a-mole. If the petitioners, who are already struggling as it is. are forced to bring a new case like this to address third country collaborators, then the bad actors will win.
“I know if trade rules are fair, our businesses and workers will always win. When you make your final determination, I implore you to issue them in line with your preliminary decision which would help level the playing field for cherry growers.
“Thank you for the opportunity to testify today, and I look forward to your final determinations.”
Sen. Gary Peters with Nels Veliquette, CFO and VP of Cherry Ke Inc. and Cherries R Us Inc., who testified at a Dec. 3 ITC hearing in Washington, D.C.