Oregon agriculture exporters whose products face steep Mexican tariffs met today with Congressman Kurt Schrader to ask for his help in resolving a trade dispute between the United States and Mexico.
On March 19, several Oregon agriculture sectors were slapped with tariffs of up to 20 percent after a pilot program allowing Mexican trucks access to U.S. highways was scrapped. Mexico reinstated the pre-North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) tariffs in response to Congress’ decision to stop funding the Department of Transportation’s Cross Border Trucking Pilot Program.
“Ending the program clearly violated provisions of NAFTA and provoked Mexico to retaliate against a number of industries, including the many Oregon growers who depend upon the Mexican market,” says Jeff Stone, director of government relations for the Oregon Association of Nurseries (OAN).
OAN, which represents Oregon’s largest sector of agriculture, stressed the urgency of resolving the trade dispute before the start of summer, when most commercial buyers place their orders for Christmas trees. OAN President Tom McNabb of Yule Tree Farms noted that a failure to resolve the dispute will result in serious economic damage to Oregon Christmas tree growers. The tariff will dramatically reduce the number of trees exported to Mexico, forcing additional product on the domestic market and creating an economic downdraft due to falling prices.
“Oregon’s renewable Christmas tree industry exports nearly 1 in 4 of the Douglas Fir trees grown in our state, equaling 11 percent of total sales, to Mexico,” said McNabb. “These tariffs of 20 percent will take a big bite out of a grower community that produces over 7 million trees and is worth more than $110 million to the Oregon economy.”