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Senators complain of Mexico farm trade barriers

(Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- Reuters: WASHINGTON - Eight U.S. senators on Monday sent Mexico a bipartisan letter accusing that country of erecting barriers to U.S. agricultural exports, warning the action could have a ``chilling'' effect on investment.

The senators were members of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over U.S. trade policy.

The committee held a hearing on agricultural trade with Mexico on Sept. 23 which included testimony from exporters, including producers of high fructose corn syrup, corn, beef, rice, pork and apples, the letter said.

``While each of these industries is unique, they all share a common complaint -- the Government of Mexico appears to be engaging in a systematic practice designed to stop their exports from entering the Mexican market,'' the senators said.

``This persistent pattern not only hurts U.S. agriculture, but also undermines our strong trade relationship, harms Mexican consumers and could having a chilling effect on investment in Mexico.''

Mexico and the United States entered into a free trade pact nearly 10 years ago but have been squabbling over farm trade. Mexican farmers have been clamoring for government protection after tariffs were eliminated on most U.S. farm products at the start of 2003.

The United States last year exported $7.3 billion in agricultural goods to Mexico and imported $5.5 billion from that country, according to numbers by the U.S. Commerce Department.

``We are willing to work with Mexico to resolve trade problems between our countries,'' the letter stated, adding that ``the worth of trade commitments depends upon the willingness of countries to abide by them.''

The letter asked Mexico to ``come into compliance'' on trade ``in the most expeditious manner.''

The letter was signed by the committee's chairman, Iowa Republican Charles Grassley, and the Democrat ranking member, Max Baucus, of Montana.