Biotech corn in the spotlight; USTR pledges to use all USMCA tools

Following her appearance before the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday, U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai revisited the administration’s trade policy agenda on Friday while speaking in front of the House Ways and Means Committee. During the meeting, there was a bipartisan concern expressed regarding biotech corn.

Under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the U.S. Trade Representative has officially requested technical consultations on Mexico’s ban on biotech corn. In response, Canada also expressed its concerns on the matter.

Why it matters?

Mexico aims to gradually phase out the import of biotech corn by 2024. In response, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) said that a “science-based approach” is a must on this matter and officially submitted a request for an explanation on January 30. Mexico responded to this request, on February 14. According to the USTR, the response would be useful in the planned technical consultations.

“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, USTR reports.

Bio.News has previously reported that Mexico imports more than 17 million tons of corn from the U.S. annually, with the major part of it being biotech corn.

If the proposed ban were to be implemented, it could have a substantial impact on the economies of both countries and potentially threaten Mexico’s food security.

What did they say?

After sending a letter to the USTR urging the Biden Administration to initiate a dispute settlement over Mexico’s ban on American corn, Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith (R-MO) was able to persuade Ambassador Tai to utilize the enforcement mechanisms outlined in the USMCA to put an end to the ban. As Mexico is the primary export market for American corn, it is essential for American farmers to maintain their ability to sell their crops in the Mexican market.

“Mexico must uphold its USMCA obligations,” said Smith. “Effective enforcement is required to protect American workers and farmers. What next steps will the administration take to ensure Mexico upholds its USCMA obligations?”

Democratic Rep. Mike Thompson from California was also concerned about the matter saying that “the USMCA dispute with Mexico is significant.”

“My district is home to a growing biotech industry. What is the administration’s effort to hold Mexico accountable in the GMO corn case, and what other opportunities exist for biotech?” he asked.

Ambassador Tai assured, “All of the tools in the USMCA are there for a reason, and we stand ready to make use of those tools to help us to resolve this issue.”

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