U.S. takes step toward legal resolution of Mexico’s biotech corn ban

On March 6, 2023, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) made a request for technical consultations concerning Mexico’s biotech corn ban under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) has been advocating for this action for several months to prevent a food security crisis in Mexico and to avoid a significant impact on the United States’ top corn export market.

The USTR wrote a letter to Mexico’s Economy Secretary Raquel Buenrostro, stating that they are utilizing their rights under Article 9.19 of the USMCA to begin technical consultations with a partner country concerning a matter that could potentially have a negative impact on trade.

Mexico intends to gradually stop importing biotech corn by 2024. The USTR demanded a “science-based approach” and submitted an official request for an explanation on January 30. Mexico responded on February 14, which the USTR stated would aid in the upcoming technical consultations. BIO stated that Mexico’s response, as well as a revised decree, raised “more questions than answers” and called for technical consultations to begin to establish “a structure and timeline for addressing this matter.”

“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. “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.”

As Bio.News reported, Mexico imports over 17 million tons of U.S. corn each year, with the majority of it being biotech corn. The proposed ban would have a significant impact on both countries’ economies and could jeopardize Mexico’s food security.

“It’s time to send a strong message to the government of Mexico and return to the science-based trading system and obligations to which both our countries committed,” said Nancy Travis, BIO’s VP of International Affairs. The ban would hurt U.S. farmers and “have a devastating impact on the agricultural innovation needed to achieve our climate goals and ensure we can meet the world’s growing demand for food.”

USTR is currently awaiting a response from Mexico’s officials regarding a meeting that is required to take place within 30 days of the formal request, as stated in Article 9.19.3 of the USMCA. The objective of this meeting is to resolve the dispute within 180 days.

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