Just when we thought there was good news for Washington farmers regarding the exorbitant tariffs levied by the Mexican government on imports of U.S. produce, we got a look at Mexico's counteroffer.
The U.S. Department of Transportation announced a plan last week that many in the agricultural industry had hoped would put an end to the retaliatory tariffs. But no such luck, apparently.
The problem began in 2009, with an announcement by Mexican officials that they would begin charging tariffs on a long list of American exports after Congress stopped a pilot program that had allowed some Mexican trucks full access to U.S. highways.
When U.S. officials entered talks to lift the ban, Mexico said it would not add any new products or make changes to the list of 99 items already affected by the punitive tariffs. U.S. officials call it a show of good faith.
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As members of our state's congressional delegation have pointed out, it's not much of a show.
The tariffs hit hard in Washington, with our potato, apple and pear industries carrying the brunt. And existing tariffs remain on the list under Mexico's proposal.
This is an issue without party lines. The tariffs have united our federal lawmakers, with Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell teaming with Republican Rep. Doc Hastings to encourage a resolution to the dispute.
"This response by the Mexican government is inadequate and deeply unfair to Washington state farmers," Murray said in a written statement. "The United States put a proposal on the table, and Mexico should have responded by ending all punitive tariffs immediately."
The U.S. government banned Mexican trucks after a lobbying campaign by the Teamsters Union, consumer groups and insurers claiming that the trucks were too unsafe to travel our roads.
Mexico retaliated with the tariffs, originally targeting 89 products, then adding 10 more last year. The tariffs range from 5 percent to 20 percent, and trade groups estimate they have cost U.S. farmers $2 billion.
"By maintaining the tariffs on Washington state products like potatoes and apples, Mexico is continuing to punish farmers and growers in my home state who have absolutely nothing to do with this dispute," Murray said.
There are some glimmers of hope on the issue. An optimistic view of Mexico's offer to not add or change the list of taxed products has some folks believing the U.S. proposal can move forward.
But until Mexico is willing to remove all of the tariffs affecting our farmers, there's no victory in this Washington.
Our local farmers shouldn't pay the price for a trucking dispute between two governments. And our government should accept no compromise on the issue. Our state's elected officials need to continue to fight the fight.
If Mexican officials are serious about negotiating in good faith, they will lift the tariffs immediately.