he U.S. Trade Representative today initiated a technical consultation with Mexico, a move that puts the U.S. one step away from filing a full dispute settlement under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement over the aggressive steps Mexico has taken to ban biotech corn. Mexico is a top market for corn, the number one agricultural export from the U.S.
The National Corn Growers Association, which along with affiliated state associations, has been leading calls for the Biden administration to act, applauded the development and urged USTR to expedite the process.
“We are pleased USTR is taking the next step to hold Mexican officials accountable for the commitments they made under USMCA, which include accepting both biotech and non-biotech commodities,” said NCGA President Tom Haag. “Mexico’s position on biotech corn is already creating uncertainty, so we need U.S officials to move swiftly and do everything it takes to eliminate this trade barrier in the very near future.”
A technical consultation will bring leaders from both countries into formal discussions. As part of the process, which can happen in person or virtually, both countries can tap their experts to share information on agricultural biotechnology.
If this step does not resolve the impasse, the U.S. can then initiate a dispute settlement under USMCA. Once a dispute settlement is filed, a group of experts are empaneled to hear the case and make final determinations based on the commitments both parties signed as part of the free trade agreement.
The dispute over biotech corn 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 that banned biotech corn for food usage and left the door open for a future ban on biotech corn for feed, effective immediately.
Most corn grown in the U.S. is biotech corn, and Mexico has historically been one of America’s top customers.
The ban raises concerns for U.S. farmers and rural economies, but also for the people of Mexico. According to a study by World Perspectives, Inc., the decree would raise tortilla prices in Mexico by 40% in the first year and 16% over time.
Given the high stakes, NCGA and corn grower leaders across the country began to sound the alarm last fall and have been calling on the Biden administration to initiate a dispute settlement under USMCA.
Mexico’s decree is not based on sound scientific evidence. Regulators and health organizations around the world, from the World Health Organization to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, have confirmed the safety and benefits of biotech crops for decades.