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U.S. to resume anti-dumping probe on Mexican fresh tomatoes

Kitco News

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Commerce Department said on Thursday it plans to resume an anti-dumping investigation into Mexican fresh tomatoes that has been suspended twice since the 1990s, the last time in 2013 to avoid a costly trade war between the neighboring countries.

The Commerce Department said it was giving the required 90-day notice that it intends to withdraw from a 2013 agreement to suspend the investigation after hearing concerns from the American tomato producing industry.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the agency is “taking action today to ensure (U.S. tomato producers) are protected from unfair trading practices.”

Last week, nearly 50 U.S. lawmakers, led by Florida Senator Marco Rubio, wrote to Ross asking for quick action. Since 1996, when Washington first agreed to a suspension, hundreds of U.S. tomato growers have been forced out of business, they said.

The lawmakers said Mexico’s share of the U.S. tomato market has increased from 32 to 54 percent, while U.S. growers’ share has fallen from 65 to 40 percent.

“The industry will continue to shrink if the status quo is maintained,” wrote the lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

The 2013 pact, which set minimum “reference” prices for Mexican tomatoes, was agreed in part to avert a feared tit-for-tat trade war if the United States decided to impose anti-dumping duties.

Commerce opened negotiations with the Mexican signatories to revise the agreement last January but said “despite committed efforts from all sides, significant outstanding issues remained.”

If Commerce finds sales of fresh tomatoes were made at less than fair value and the U.S. International Trade Commission finds significant injury, the administration could ultimately issue an anti-dumping order.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Sonya Hepinstall

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