efe-epaMexico City

A bilateral agreement has been reached on Mexican tomato exports that will bring a halt to a United States anti-dumping investigation, the Mexican government said Wednesday.

"In the last minutes of Aug. 20, Mexican tomato producers reached an agreement with the US Department of Commerce that will allow for the suspension of the (latter's) 'anti-dumping' investigation," Mexican Economy Secretary Graciela Marquez wrote on Twitter.

She added that this agreement is good news because it will keep the US market open for Mexican tomato exporters.

For his part, the Foreign Relations Secretariat's undersecretary for North America, Jesus Seade, congratulated Mexican tomato growers on the accord and acknowledged their "infinite determination" to reach an agreement in such an important sector of Mexico-US trade.

He also highlighted the pivotal work carried out by the presidential chief of staff, Alfonso Romo; Agriculture Secretary Victor Villalobos; and Mexico's ambassador to the US, Martha Barcena.

The Economy Secretariat expressed its satisfaction with the agreement, saying in a bulletin that a 30-day period for public comments has now been opened.

The new agreement will enter into force on Sept. 19, the date that the US Commerce Department had set for a final determination on its now-suspended anti-dumping investigation, it said, adding that at that time Mexican exporters also will be able to recover cash deposits made since May 7.

The secretariat, however, did not indicate whether the agreement suspends the tariffs that the US had imposed in recent months on Mexican tomatoes.

The trade dispute began on May 7 when Washington - acting at the request of Florida tomato growers - withdrew from the so-called Suspension Agreement on Fresh Tomatoes from Mexico, a pact whose origins date back to 1996 and that most recently had been renewed in 2013.

That move was accompanied by a resumption of a long-suspended anti-dumping investigation and the imposition of a 17.5 percent tariff on Mexican tomato imports.

The suspension agreement had allowed tariff-free Mexican tomato exports to the US for decades on condition that Mexican growers not sell their product below a floor price established by the US.

Although the late Tuesday agreement was reached between US authorities and Mexican producers, the Mexican government also was active in the negotiations.

Marquez was in contact on different occasions with US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and pressed him to reach an agreement with the Mexican producers.

In late May, the Mexican government complained that the US was wanting to impose "extreme conditions" on Mexican tomatoes, particularly objecting to its plan for strict border inspections that Mexico City said would cause export delays of up to three days.

According to figures from Mexico's National Agricultural Council, Mexican tomato exports to the US were valued at roughly $2 billion in 2018. EFE-EPA

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