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National Potato Council letter to Vilsack/Tai: Maintain a ‘trust but verify’ stance with Mexico

Left: USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Right: Mexican Agriculture Secretary Víctor Villalobos Arámbula

You may have read last week that Mexican Agriculture Secretary Víctor Villalobos Arámbula is expected to travel to Washington, D.C. in early August to meet with his American counterpart, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The meeting is expected to include a discussion of the decades-long issue concerning Mexico’s ban on the full importation of fresh U.S. potatoes.

The meeting comes after April’s decision by the Mexican Supreme Court that unanimously ruled in favor of allowing the Mexican government to issue regulations allowing for fresh U.S. potatoes to be imported throughout the country.

However, since then, Mexico’s agriculture department announced that U.S. potato imports would be required to undergo phytosanitary testing beyond the agreed-to protocols at a lab chosen and paid for by the Mexican potato cartel, CONPAPA.

In a conversation with the publication Inside U.S. Trade, NPC CEO Kam Quarles welcomed news of the meeting and thanked Secretary Vilsack for his vigilance on the issue.

However, Quarles said that NPC continues be concerned about the Mexican government’s lack of transparency and issuance of regulatory roadblocks, saying the new regulation "raises a lot of red flags about whether or not this is going to be a fair and transparent process."

Kam Quarles:
 
"Now that we’ve won in the legal forum [at the Mexican Supreme Court], the impediments may simply migrate to the regulatory side of the house."
Today, NPC and state potato organizations sent a letter to USDA Secretary Vilsack and USTR Ambassador Tai noting the many times over the past two decades that Mexico has unilaterally changed protocols and/or instilled roadblocks to prevent fresh U.S. potatoes from gaining full access to the country.

Given this history, the groups urge the Secretary and Ambassador to “maintain a ‘trust but verify’ stance with Mexico” as they continue their negotiations.
 
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