March 29, 2023

US requests talks with Mexico over GMO corn

US requests talks with Mexico over GMO corn 

By: Sydney Sheffield 

The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has announced that it is requesting technical consultations with the Government of Mexico under the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) Chapter of the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA).  The request comes as the United States and Mexico are at battle regarding genetically modified corn. Check out background information on the topic in this February 2022 Taking Stock D.C. article.  

In late 2020, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced that his country would ban the import of GMO corn for human consumption by 2024. During a November 2022 meeting with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Mexican officials proposed some changes to Obrador’s decree. The Mexican president later added he might be willing to delay the ban for a year. Those concessions fell far short of American expectations.

The recent announcement follows extensive engagement by USTR and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) with the Government of Mexico on its biotech policies, including Ambassador Tai’s discussions with Mexico’s Secretary of Economy Raquel Buenrostro and Chief Agricultural Negotiator Doug McKalip’s and Ambassador Jayme White’s meetings with Mexico’s Under Secretary of Foreign Trade Alejandro Encinas in January 2023, as well as meetings of the USMCA Free Trade Commission, Deputies, SPS Committee, and Biotech Working Group. 

“The United States has repeatedly conveyed our serious concerns with Mexico’s biotechnology policies and the importance of adopting a science-based approach that complies with its USMCA commitments,” said Ambassador Katherine Tai.  "Mexico’s policies threaten to disrupt billions of dollars in agricultural trade and they will stifle the innovation that is necessary to tackle the climate crisis and food security challenges if left unaddressed.  We hope these consultations will be productive as we continue to work with Mexico to address these issues.”

USTR and USDA urge the United States trading partners to follow a science-based approach to biotech products, which help American farmers respond to pressing climate and food security challenges. A report found that Mexico’s decision would result in over 10 years, Mexico’s GDP falling by $11.72 billion, and economic output would be reduced by $19.39 billion. There would be an annual loss of 56,958 jobs, which would reduce labor income by $2.99 billion. 

“Innovations in agricultural biotechnology play a key role in advancing these critical, global objectives,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “While we appreciate the sustained, active engagement with our Mexican counterparts at all levels of government, we remain firm in our view that Mexico’s current biotechnology trajectory is not grounded in science, which is the foundation of USMCA.”

Through the consultation process, the U.S. government hopes to reach an outcome that respects each country’s sovereignty and benefits the United States, Mexico, and their agricultural producers and stakeholders.