On September 1, 2020 the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), Department of Agriculture, and Department of Commerce issued a 32-page report outlining the Trump Administration’s plan to address increased foreign imports of perishable fruits and vegetables. Following the public hearings held in August, the Administration published this report in hopes to open a dialogue with senior Mexican Government officials over the next 90 days regarding specific produce.
The USTR requested that the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) formally initiate an investigation under Section 201of the Trade Act of 1974 (Global Safeguard Investigation) with respect to imports of blueberries. Additionally, USTR intends to request that the ITC monitor and investigate imports of strawberries and bell peppers, which could lead to an expedited Section 201 investigations later this year. The USTR is separately pursuing negotiations with the Mexican government to address U.S. industry concerns over imports of strawberries, bell peppers, and other perishable products. Section 201 investigations occur when a country experiences an unexpected surge in the import quantity of a certain product. The most recent Section 201 investigation was used to limit imports of solar panels and washing machines in 2018.
Other initiatives include the Department of Commerce improving communication with U.S. farmers responsible for growing the subject produce and assisting them in understanding trade remedy laws and procedures. Similarly, the Department of Agriculture will develop a market promotion strategy for domestically produced produce and work with producers to maximize the use of existing agriculture programs. USTR, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Agriculture will establish an interagency working group to monitor seasonal and perishable fruit and vegetable products, coordinate as appropriate regarding future investigations and trade actions, and provide technical assistance to Congress in developing legislation on this issue.
The interagency announcement regarding imports of certain fruits and vegetables follows media reports that U.S. farmers are on track to receive a record $37.2 billion in subsidies from the government this year.
We will continue to monitor this situation and provide any updates. Husch Blackwell encourages those who may have questions or concerns on this issue to please contact the International Trade and Supply Chain team.