The U.S. Trade Representative’s Office (USTR) announced last week it is filing a dispute settlement under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) in response to Mexico’s ban on biotech corn for human consumption.
The dispute stems from a 2020 decree by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador that sought to ban imports of biotech corn beginning in January 2024. Mexico issued a revised decree in February 2023 that banned biotech corn for human consumption effective immediately and left the door open for a future ban on biotech corn for livestock feed.
“The Mexicans are being ridiculous at this point,” says Chuck Conner, President and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC).
Conner is also originally from Benton County, Indiana, a graduate of Purdue University, and has previously served as both Acting Secretary and Deputy Secretary of the USDA during the administration of President George W. Bush.
He points the finger at Mexican President López Obrador and his administration for creating confusion and possible economic chaos with their decision.
“The leadership in Mexico is not the kind of leadership that we had when we negotiated any of the original NAFTA provisions, which have benefited Mexico so much,” says Conner. “It has lifted that country out of poverty and really created such a strong trading partner for us, but the current administration is determined to change so much of that and it’s unfortunate.”
Conner says this issue will likely take several years to resolve.
“We haven’t brought very many cases of late just because it’s such a long and protracted process involving, in some cases, three-to-five years to get to a conclusion on this,” says Conner. “I know the U.S. would much rather settle and get this worked out, but at the end of the day, that may not be possible. We may just simply have to use the mechanisms that are there against the Mexicans because they’re just flat out wrong.”
He adds that Mexico’s actions are not based on sound science and have threatened the ag economies of both countries.
“They’re wrong on the politics for their own country and they’re certainly wrong on the science. If they want to go down the path of not paying any attention to science in terms of trading with the United States, that’s going to be a very bad path for Mexico and its future. I just really hope that common sense prevails down there,” says Conner.
Once a dispute settlement is filed by the USTR over Mexico’s decree, a group of objective experts will hear the case and make final determinations based on the commitments both parties signed as part of the USMCA.