You Say “Tomatoes” And I Say “Unfair”

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary In a major change, the U.S. Department of Commerce will greatly curtail tomatoes being imported from Mexico. This will be a violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and will in fact have a major impact on American consumers who will be forced to pay higher prices for tomatoes. Basically, the only tomatoes that will be available will be those primarily grown in Florida. Hence, the Florida tomato growers will benefit the most. For years, Florida growers have complained that their products were being sidelined by the cheaper Mexican tomato imports. Well, this is not surprising. Under NAFTA rules, imports and exports that have been agreed upon cannot be reneged without both sides agreeing. Clearly the Mexican farmers and the Mexican government will not agree to this.

But why is the U.S. government doing this now? It clearly is politics. Remember that Florida farmers are also voters, and they will go with the candidate who supports them. Just as equally important is that Florida is a campaign battleground state. Wherever Florida goes so will the election for president. U.S. President Barack Obama is far from guaranteed winning this state (a Republican stronghold), and so he is trying to influence the Florida farmers to vote for him. It might work, but it might backfire. There is no guarantee that Obama will receive the Florida farmers’ votes. Worse, it could mean serious trouble for relations between Mexico and the United States—Mexican farmers are an important sector in Mexico as well. One thing the United States does not need is a food war with Mexico. American consumers as well as Mexican farmers will lose. I am sure that Americans do not want to pay higher prices for tomatoes just to please Florida tomato farmers.

The die is cast however. If somehow Obama wins the presidential election, he may find a more prickly relationship with Mexico. If his Republican rival Mitt Romney wins, Romney will have to do something about Mexico in order to defuse this situation. Sometimes campaign favors come at too high a price.

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