Mexico’s Top Court to Rule on US Potato Trade
Mexico’s Supreme Court is scheduled to rule Wednesday on whether the country’s government has the authority to fully open Mexican borders to fresh U.S. potatoes, potentially settling a major U.S. trade dispute going back about two decades. According to AgriPulse.com, a ruling in US’s favor could triple the amount of potatoes they send to Mexico, according to the National Potato Council. The U.S. exports about USD60m worth of fresh spuds across the southern border every year despite a major Mexican trade barrier. That could rise as high as USD200m per year if the court rules to give U.S. potatoes full access to the Mexican market.
Mexico agreed about 20 years ago to open its borders to U.S. potatoes in return for the U.S. opening its border to Mexican avocados, says NPC CEO Kam Quarles. The U.S. followed through on its promise, but Mexico did not.
Held back by the powerful potato lobby there – Mexico agreed to allow for importation of U.S. fresh potatoes, but only inside a 26 kilometers buffer zone from the border.
“The domestic potato industry essentially sued their own government,” Quarles said. “There were numerous cases filed all across the country.” Many of those cases were rejected but some were successful in lower courts, and it’s those cases that are being ruled on this week. The unifying theme of those suits being considered by the five-member Supreme Court, Quarles says, is that Mexican government agencies should not be allowed to have the authority to approve potatoes or any other commodity for importation.
Unlike its counterpart in the U.S., the Mexican Supreme Court issues a draft ruling in cases before the actual vote takes place. And the draft ruling released last week is spurring optimism for U.S. potato farmers because it rejects the claims of the Mexican potato farmers and affirms that the Mexican government has the authority to open the border completely to U.S. potatoes – something the government was already preparing to do.