GAO: U.S. must do more to help Mexico liberalize agricultural trade
A federal watchdog agency said U.S. government agencies must do more to help their Mexican counterparts implement the North American Free Trade Agreement by ending lingering tariffs and non-tariff barriers to agricultural goods.
U.S. agricultural exports have increased to Mexico in recent years as tariffs are phased out. Only a handful of tariffs remain and will be eliminated by 2008. Total U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico increased to $7.9 billion in 2003, compared to $4.1 billion in 1993. “Despite progress, some commodities still have difficulties gaining access to the Mexican market,” said the Government Accountability Office in a recent report.
The GAO found that Mexico continues to use antidumping, plant and animal health requirements, safeguards and other non-tariff barriers, such as consumption taxes, to restrict market access for U.S. agricultural products. These barriers help the fuel political and industry opposition to NAFTA. The GAO said U.S. government agencies could help diffuse this situation by promoting ways to help Mexico address its rural development issues.
Since 2001, U.S.-Mexico development activities have taken place under the Partnership for Prosperity (P4P) Initiative to promote development in parts of Mexico where economic growth has fallen behind. The GAO said the U.S. Department of Agriculture and State Department should use the program to promote rural agriculture improvements in Mexico.
According to the GAO, the U.S. government agencies generally agreed with the report’s findings.