U.S. initiates investigation against blueberry imports, of which Mexico is its third supplier

02/10/2020

The United States initiated an investigation to determine whether it applies a global safeguard against blueberry imports. The measure is part of the U.S. government's broader plan to assess whether it applies tariffs to foreign purchases of several fruits and vegetables, including some of Mexico's most successful, such as strawberries and Bell peppers.

The United States initiated an investigation to determine whether it applies a global safeguard against blueberry imports. Photo: Jeff Kubina via Flickr
The United States initiated an investigation to determine whether it applies a global safeguard against blueberry imports. Photo: Jeff Kubina via Flickr

In 2019, Peru was the leading supplier of blueberries to the U.S. market, with shipments of $485 million, followed by Chile ($313 million), Mexico ($219 million), Canada ($116 million), and Argentina ($33 million).

The United States imported blueberries for a total value of 1,242 million dollars in 2019.

Graciela Marquez, Secretary of Economy, informed this Thursday, in a press conference, that if the United States were to charge tariffs on Mexican blueberry imports, Mexico would have the right to apply "compensatory measures of the same nature" under the Treaty between Mexico, the United States and Canada (T-MEC).

The USTR will request the International Trade Commission (USITC) to immediately begin a Section 201 investigation into the blueberries. This will be the first time in nearly 20 years that the USTR has used such authority. Section 201 is an important part of the U.S. Administration's trade toolkit.

In general, the USTR will request that the USITC investigate whether increased imports of a product are causing or threatening to cause serious injury to domestic producers of the product.

If the USITC determines that this is the case, U.S. President Donald Trump is authorized to take all measures within his power to facilitate the domestic industry's efforts to make a positive adjustment to import competition, including increased tariffs and quantitative limitations.

Safeguard measures" as the remedies available under Section 201, are explicitly permitted under the World Trade Organization (WTO) rules when they are necessary to prevent or repair the serious injury caused by increased imports.

In 2018, Trump used his authority under Section 201 to increase tariffs on imported washing machines and solar panels.

Two main aspects of Section 201 distinguish this remedy from the U.S. antidumping and countervailing duty laws. First, Section 201 does not require the determination of unfair trade practice.

Rather, an increase in imports, regardless of the reason for the imports, is in itself sufficient to justify a trade remedy, provided that the increase is "a substantial cause of serious injury, or threat thereof, to the domestic industry producing an article as or directly competing with the imported article.

Second, Article 201 investigations are not limited to evaluating imports from a particular country, but they analyze and account for imports into the United States from all countries. This is why Section 201 is often referred to as the "blanket safeguard.