LatinNews Daily - 12 June 2023

US requests trade dispute consultations with Mexico over biotech policies

Mexico: On 2 June, the US government officially requested dispute settlement consultations with Mexico under the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) concerning Mexican measures related to products of agricultural biotechnology. The request, made by US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, raises concerns that Mexico’s biotechnology policies lack a scientific foundation and could adversely affect US agricultural exports to Mexico. The consultations relate to a decree issued by Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on 13 February, calling for the gradual elimination of the importation and use of genetically modified (GM) corn in products for human consumption. Mexico argues this transition will enhance competitiveness and productivity in the agricultural industry while upholding international commitments. The US government contends that Mexico’s ban on the use of GM corn in tortillas or dough, as well as the progressive substitution of GM corn in other products for human consumption, runs counter to its obligations under USMCA’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures and Market Access chapters. According to Tai, these measures also impede agricultural innovation and may exacerbate food security challenges. In March the US and Mexico engaged in discussions on biotechnology policies through various USMCA channels to no avail. Mexico’s economy ministry (SE) acknowledged the US request for consultations and stated it intended to participate in the dialogue under the dispute settlement chapter of the USMCA. The SE said it would defend Mexico’s position during the consultations and aim to demonstrate that the exclusive use of native corn for tortillas and dough does not significantly impact US commercial interests, given that imported corn from the US primarily serves industrial purposes and animal feed, while Mexico’s domestic corn production fulfils the country’s essential food requirements. In a further blow to the Mexican government, on 9 June Canada’s government announced that it would participate as a third party in the dispute, stating that it “shares the concerns of the US that Mexico’s measures are not scientifically supported and have the potential to unnecessarily disrupt trade in the North American market”.

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