WASHINGTON D.C. - Yesterday, U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexico's President, Felipe Calderón, announced that they had reached an agreement on a path forward for resolving the cross-border trucking dispute and ending the retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural products.
The Mexican government has committed to suspending 50 percent of the tariffs once a final rule is published and an agreement is signed. The other 50 percent of the tariffs will be suspended when the new program commences.
The news pleased both U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and U.S. Congressman Doc Hastings, although both are calling for an immediate end to the tariffs, described by each as retaliatory.
"This is absolutely an encouraging step forward toward resolving this issue, but I am once again deeply disappointed that the Mexican government has refused to immediately lift the retaliatory tariffs that are devastating farmers in my home state of Washington, " said Murray (D-Wa.).
"By maintaining the tariffs on Washington state products like potatoes and apples, Mexico is continuing to punish farmers and growers in my home state who have absolutely nothing to do with this dispute," Murray added.
Murray explained the Mexican government has indicated in the past that it would end these tariffs as soon as the negotiations were on track for a resolution.
"I believe we are solidly on that path, and I once again call on the Mexican government to immediately end these harmful tariffs and allow our farmers to compete on the level playing field they deserve," she said.
In early January of this year U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced the Obama Administration was moving forward with a proposal to negotiate an end to the Mexican tariffs on agricultural products. The tariffs were put in place by the Mexican government after the U.S. restricted the flow of trucks coming across the Mexican border.
Hastings (R-Pasco) reacted to yesterday's news by saying that he is pleased that the Obama Administration is finally actively working with Mexico to reach a resolution.
"Yet today's announcement still falls short of what our agriculture-based economy so desperately needs. This Administration has had almost two years to resolve this issue, and I encourage President Obama to conclude these negotiations and bring an end to these tariffs immediately.
"Washington state growers and processors simply cannot afford any more delays," said Hastings.
Mexico, in March 2009, began imposing 20 percent tariffs on 90 American products, including potatoes, pears, cherries and apricots. That, said Hastings, has cost American farmers millions of dollars and has put Central Washington jobs at risk. The tariffs, he said, are in retaliation for the United States failing to meet international trade obligations to its largest trading partner.