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Arizona lawmakers urge Trump official to protect Mexican tomato imports

(Pixabay Photo)

PHOENIX — Members of Congress from Arizona sent a bipartisan letter to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross on Friday urging him to protect what they consider an important import.

“We write to you today increasingly concerned over efforts from certain regional interests to curb the import of fresh tomatoes from Mexico,” the letter stated.

“Erecting new barriers to trade in fruits and vegetables risks hurting American consumers and the United States agriculture industry.”

The letter refers to the Trump administration’s plan to pull out of the nation’s 2013 Tomato Suspension Agreement with Mexico on May 7, which was announced last month.

The Arizona delegation said they urge the Department of Commerce to renegotiate a deal that addresses the concerns of U.S. growers, which were cited as a reason the administration pulled out of the 2013 deal.

“Terminating the agreement without the certainty provided by a revised suspension agreement would create economic uncertainty throughout the supply chain and risk retaliation to our agriculture industry,” the letter stated.

Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, said in a press release that Arizona importers would have to pay a 17.5 percent duty on Mexican tomatoes without the agreement.

“This will force Arizona tomato distributing companies to pay hundreds of millions of dollars just to be able to stay in business,” he said in the release.

“Without a Suspension Agreement, produce warehouses in Southern Arizona will face extreme hardship and potential closure.”

The Arizona lawmakers said they are concerned that the lack of an agreement could damage the country’s trade relationship with Mexico.

“Maintaining a healthy two-way bilateral trade relationship with Mexico is essential to the continued growth of the American economy,” the letter stated.

“It is also essential to ensure that U.S. consumers have access to affordable fresh produce, especially in cold-weather months.”

According to the letter, Mexican tomato imports are responsible for 30,000 U.S. jobs.

The letter was signed by both U.S Sens. Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

Reps. Debbie Lesko and Paul Gosar were the only Arizona members of the U.S. House of Representatives who did not sign.

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