Mexico lifts steep tariffs on Washington state apples as officials credit trade trips

Tuesday, January 4th 2005, 8:40 am
By: News On 6

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) _ Mexico has agreed to drop a steep antidumping tariff on Pacific Northwest apples, the apparent outcome of recent trade missions south of the border.

A new five-year agreement sets aside a 46.6 percent tariff on Red and Golden Delicious apples that has been in effect since August 2002, officials said Monday. It takes effect Feb. 28.

The new agreement comes after two trade missions led by Gov. Gary Locke. Locke most recently met in June with Mexican President Vicente Fox and other officials, hoping to increase exports of Washington apples, cherries and potatoes.

``This is great news for the apple industry in Washington state,'' Locke said in a statement. ``This agreement is yet another example of how our trade missions, and the strong relationships that we establish during those missions, yield results for Washington farmers and businesses.''

Since 1997, Mexico has accused U.S. producers of dumping, or unfairly selling apples in Mexico at levels below the sales price for apples in the U.S. market.

The agreement was negotiated between the Mexican government and Yakima-based Northwest Fruit Exporters, a nonprofit that manages apple and cherry export programs for about 85 packers and shippers in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

The agreement, which allows the two apple varieties to be exported duty free into Mexico, applies only to Northwest-area exporters of Red and Golden Delicious apples who are members of Northwest Fruit Exporters.

Mexico is the state's largest foreign export market for apples and is among the top five markets for many of the state's other agricultural commodities.

Washington state exported $607 million in products to Mexico in 2003, up 40 percent over 2002. That total included $150 million in food and other agricultural products, said Kate Sandboe of the state Agriculture Department.