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Third party resolution needed for US and Mexico corn dispute 

By: Sydney Sheffield 

United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced that the United States is seeking a dispute settlement panel the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) regarding Mexico’s biotechnology corn measures. The United States is in an ongoing disagreement with Mexico over the February 2023 decree, banning the use of biotech corn in tortillas or dough, and the instruction to Mexican government agencies to gradually phase out the use of biotech corn in all products for human consumption and for animal feed. 

“The United States has used the tools provided by the USMCA in attempting to resolve concerns with Mexico’s biotechnology measures. Today, the United States is taking the next step in enforcing Mexico’s obligations under the USMCA,” said Ambassador Katherine Tai. 

On January 30, 2023, the United States sent a formal, written request to Mexico under USMCA for “an explanation of the reasons for” and “pertinent relevant information regarding” certain Mexican measures concerning biotechnology products. In March 2023, the United States requested and held technical consultations with Mexico regarding its biotechnology measures, but the consultations did not resolve the matter. In June 2023, the United States requested and held dispute settlement consultations with Mexico regarding its biotechnology measures under the USMCA Dispute Settlement Chapter, but these consultations also failed to resolve the matter.

“Through the USMCA dispute panel, we seek to resolve our concerns and help ensure consumers can continue to access safe and affordable food and agricultural products. It is critical that Mexico eliminate its USMCA-inconsistent biotechnology measures so that American farmers can continue to access the Mexican market and use innovative tools to respond to climate and food security challenges. Our bilateral relationship with Mexico, one of our oldest and strongest trading partners, is rooted in trust and honesty, and there are many areas where we will continue to cooperate and work together,” Tai said. 

This is an issue that is important to many American farmers and ranchers. Mexico is the second largest exporter of US corn. In 2022, Mexico bought $4.792 billion worth of U.S. corn. Mexico purchases so much American corn that in 2022, almost 70% of the corn from the state of Illinois was exported to Mexico. Mexico is also the third-largest ag export destination. Another reason why this issue is so critical is that around 92% of all United States corn is genetically modified in some way and would be affected by the Mexico decree. 

Many in the industry are happy to see the United States Trade Representative standing up for American farmers. Zippy Duvall, President of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) said, “AFBF appreciates U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai for her continued commitment to ensuring Mexico lives up to its responsibilities under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement by allowing fair trade from the United States. Mexico’s ban on bioengineered corn is not only a clear violation of USMCA, but it also ignores science and denies families in Mexico safe and affordable food. America’s farmers are upholding their obligations by meeting demand while achieving important sustainability goals. Mexico must do the same.” 

Read the dispute settlement request here