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Congressmen Gonzalez and Schweikert Lead Bipartisan, Bicameral Letter to Exclude Seasonality Provision from USMCA

June 24, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON - Congressman Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15) and David Schweikert (AZ-6) co-led a bipartisan, bicameral letter urging the Trump Administration to exclude a “seasonality” provision from the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

In the letter, Congressman Gonzalez and his colleagues cautioned the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) against including a seasonality provision as it would have a damaging effect on border state economies.

“Those of us from border states live and breathe international trade,” said Congressman Gonzalez. “Our region has reaped the benefits of free and fair trade. But neither our communities nor our country can afford disruptions in the American produce supply chain, closures of Texas businesses or increased prices at the grocery store. That’s why my colleagues and I have teamed up to advise the administration against including a seasonality provision in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.”

“Arizona and its citizens benefit greatly from trade with its neighbors, especially in the months where our temperatures prevent growth for fruits and vegetables,” said Congressman David Schweikert. “My colleagues and I are continuing to fight against harmful seasonality provisions. We are working to make sure that a seasonality provision is not included in the final United States, Mexico, and Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA), as this would harm U.S. consumers and run counter to our beliefs in supporting free and fair trade. I look forward to helping implement the USMCA agreement that will bring strength and prosperity to our economy, without a seasonality provision.”

Using USMCA as a vehicle for pursuing seasonal agriculture trade remedies risks pitting different regions of the country against each other effectively raising prices for American consumers on select produce. Consumers in the U.S. currently enjoy the lowest food costs in the world with just 6.4 percent of U.S. income going toward food.

The letter is co-signed by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Representatives Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Will Hurd (TX-23) Andy Biggs (AZ-5), Debbie Lesko (AZ-8), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-2), Greg Stanton (AZ-9), Ruben Gallego (AZ-7), Randy K. Weber (TX-14), Filemon Vela (TX-34), TJ Cox (CA-21), Tom O’Halleran (AZ-1), Jim Costa (CA-16), Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30), Devin Nunes (CA-22), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Joaquin Castro (TX-20) and Raul M. Grijalva (AZ-3).

 

The letter is available below:

Dear Ambassador Lighthizer:

We are writing to express our concerns about reports that the administration may be exploring the inclusion of a so-called “seasonality” provision in legislation implementing the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. As Members of Congress who support free, fair, and reciprocal trade between the United States and its trading partners around the globe, we strongly object to adding any seasonality provision that conflicts with the intent of the agreement.

We were pleased that a seasonality provision was not included in USMCA when the agreement was finalized by the U.S., Mexico, and Canada last year. Seasonality, whereby certain agricultural products could be subjected to numerous seasonal and regional dumping duties at various times throughout the year, runs counter to the spirit of a free trade agreement intended to tear down both tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade.

Using USMCA as a vehicle for pursuing seasonal agriculture trade remedies risks pitting different regions of the country against each other. And, if successful, this tactic will result in higher prices for U.S. consumers, while reducing availability, selection, and quality in the supermarket aisle for items such as tomatoes, avocados, bell peppers, watermelons, strawberries and blueberries, just to name a few.

Consumers in the U.S. currently enjoy the lowest food costs in the world, with just 6.4 percent of U.S. income going toward food. U.S. per capita consumption of fresh vegetables stood at 126.8 pounds per year in 1993, before the implementation of NAFTA. In 2016, U.S. per capita consumption of fresh vegetables had reached 145.1 pounds per year, a 14 percent increase.

Some fresh fruits and vegetables, however, simply are not available in sufficient volume from the U.S. in certain months. U.S. companies have found significant value in working with farms in Mexico and Canada to produce and export the foods that contribute to healthful eating habits for U.S. consumers.    

We strongly oppose the inclusion of any agriculture seasonality provisions in USMCA implementing legislation, as they would run counter to consumer preferences, undermine the spirit of the trinational free trade agreement, and harm U.S. industries in order to artificially support a small segment of regional growers’ interests.