Jun 5, 2023U.S. seeks agreement with Mexico on biotechnology
The U.S. has requested dispute settlement consultations with Mexico under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), concerning biotech agricultural products.
Katherine Tai, U.S. trade representative (USTR), said Mexico is one of the country’s oldest and strongest trading partners — a relationship that is rooted in trust and honesty and there are many areas where the two countries cooperate and work together.
“The United States has repeatedly conveyed its concerns that Mexico’s biotechnology policies are not based on science and threaten to disrupt U.S. exports to Mexico to the detriment of agricultural producers, which in turn can exacerbate food security challenges,” Tai said in a June 2 statement announcing the dispute settlement consultation request. “Mexico’s biotechnology policies also stifle agricultural innovation that helps American farmers respond to pressing climate challenges, increase farm productivity, and improve farmers’ livelihoods.”
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the USDA supports all farmers, embracing “fair, open, science- and rules-based trade.
“In this spirit, the USMCA was written to ensure that producers in all three countries have full and fair access to each other’s markets,” Vilsack said in a statement. “We fundamentally disagree with the position Mexico has taken on the issue of biotechnology, which has been proven to be safe for decades. Through this action, we are exercising our rights under USMCA while supporting innovation, nutrition security, sustainability, and the mutual success of our farmers and producers.”
These consultations regard measures set out in a Feb. 13 decree from Mexico, banning use of biotechnology corn in tortillas or dough, and the instruction to Mexican government agencies to gradually substitute — i.e., ban — the use of biotechnology corn in all products for human consumption and for animal feed.
The consultations also regard rejections of applications for authorization covering the importation and sale of certain biotechnology products. Mexico’s measures appear to be inconsistent with several of its obligations in the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures and Market Access chapters of the USMCA, according to the USTR.
The USTR’s announcement follows extensive engagement by the U.S. with the Government of Mexico on its biotechnology policies, including Ambassador Tai’s discussions with Mexico’s Secretary of Economy Raquel Buenrostro.
The U.S. has used the tools provided by the USMCA in attempting to resolve concerns with Mexico’s biotechnology policies, including meetings of the USMCA Free Trade Commission, SPS Committee and Biotechnology Working Group.
On Jan. 30, the U.S sent a formal, written request to Mexico under the USMCA SPS Chapter (Article 9.6.14) for “an explanation of the reasons for” and “pertinent relevant information regarding” certain Mexican measures concerning biotechnology products. Mexico provided a written response on Feb. 14.
In March, the U.S. requested and held technical consultations with Mexico regarding its biotechnology measures under the USMCA SPS chapter, but the consultations did not resolve the matter.
Throughout the process, the U.S. has been clear that it would consider all options, including further steps to enforce U.S. rights under the USMCA, if Mexico did not return to science- and risk-based biotechnology policies that are in compliance with USMCA commitments, according to the USTR’s office. Through the dispute settlement consultations, the U.S. seeks to work with the Mexican government to resolve U.S. concerns fully, according to the USTR’s office.